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Facebook will start tracking political ads around the world

Facebook is preparing for important international elections this year in Europe, India, and Israel.

A political rally in India featuring a large crowd gathered around a heavily decorated bus.
A political rally in India in 2014.
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Facebook isn’t just worried about the influence it might have on US elections.

The site is rolling out versions of its political ad archive to international markets ahead of elections this year in Europe, India, Ukraine, and Israel, the company announced Monday.

The ad archive, which is a “publicly searchable library” of all political ads on the service, will include information like who paid for an ad, how many people it reached, and demographic information about which groups the ad was targeted to. Facebook rolled out a similar archive last May before the 2018 US midterm elections and has other archives for political ads in the UK and Brazil.

Facebook says it’s planning “a global expansion” of the ad archive product by the end of June.

While most of Facebook’s users won’t spend time searching through these political ad libraries, they are an important part of the company’s effort to avoid another scenario like the 2016 US elections, in which Russian trolls used Facebook, including Facebook ads, to sow division among voters. It’s very possible that Facebook, and some of its tech peers, may be regulated as a result.

It’s also a reminder that Facebook has the potential to play a massive role in democratic elections globally, not just in the United States. India, which is Facebook’s largest country by total users, will hold its elections in April and May. Europe will hold elections for the European Parliament in late May.

Facebook is also expanding its “war room” effort. Ahead of the US midterms, it created a “war room” to centralize employees from different teams so that they could more quickly respond to issues of misinformation or voter suppression.

Facebook will create what it is calling “regional operations centers” in Dublin and Singapore to help do something similar for international elections.

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