Facebook blocks access to ad transparency tools for external agencies before elections

The company has made the move following the Cambridge Analytica scandal

Social networking website Facebook has restricted external agencies from having access to political ads on its platform. The move comes in at the time when a third of the population in the world, including India, is set to vote for elections this year.

The new update does not allow third-party ad transparency tools to be used by news organisations and other agencies. The company claims the step has been taken in order to prevent malicious actors from scraping user data and Facebook does not intend to stop critical reporting on its platform.

According to WhoTargetsMe, a British group that uses its ad transparency tool, Facebook has disabled use of plugins that collect information about political ads.

A report by The Guardian, also stated that ProPublica, a US investigative journalism site was facing similar restrictions since the changes were made by Facebook.

ProPublica operates a database called Facebook Political Ad Collector that displays information about more than 1,20,000 political ads; courtesy of over 22,000 users who have installed and used the plugin.

“Ten days ago, our software stopped working, and efforts to fix it have proved much harder than before,” said WhoTargetsMe co-founder Sam Jeffers. He further said in the report that there could be a chance where Facebook would lock out his service altogether.

When ProPublica posted a story on Twitter following the block, Rob Leathern, Director of Product at Facebook replied, “This isn’t about stopping publications from holding us accountable or making ads less transparent”.



New: Facebook has blocked the ability to automatically pull ad targeting information, effectively shuttering transparency projects like ours.

Facebook Moves to Block Ad Transparency Tools — Including Ours — ProPublica

Our tool had let the public see exactly how users were being targeted by advertisers. The social media giant urged us to shut it down last year.

Rob Leathern


This isn’t about stopping publications from holding us accountable or making ads less transparent. This is about preventing people’s data from being misused – our top priority. Plugins that scrape ads can expose people’s info if misused.

See Rob Leathern’s other Tweets

He stated that the company’s primary priority is to prevent user data from being misused. “Plugins that scrape ads can expose people’s info if misused”, he added.

Notably, Facebook has burnt its hands in the Cambridge Analytica scandal wherein Cambridge Analytica misused user data from over 50 million users.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to testify in front of the US Congress and even in the UK Parliament after the news of the scandal broke out. The company also announced to take additional steps to increase ad transparency and defend against foreign interference ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in India.+


(Note: This Story has been completely carried over from and has not edited the content)


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