Suspending our Notify service*

26th Aug 2021 | Share:

We’re suspending our Notify service for the foreseeable future.

The goal of the service is to provide interested folks with a near-realtime notification of new political Facebook ads going live. When a new ad from a page or party launched, you get an email telling you about it and directing you to the relevant place in the Facebook ad library.

The reasons for doing this are fairly simple:

  • Creating a clone of the FB Ad Library that’s reliable enough for this purpose is quite labour intensive.
  • It costs money to host it and hold all that ad data.
  • Things break and we don’t have time to fix them.
  • We have loads of ideas for new features**, but don’t have the resources to add them.
  • We’re having to focus on other things more core to our current objectives (the browser extension, research on the German election and advocacy around ad transparency laws). 

We’re not shutting it down because it’s a bad idea – far from it.

One of the big challenges faced by modern digital campaigns is rebutting or responding to claims made about your party, or about issues you care about, at the speed of internet campaigning. The Facebook Ad Library allows people to search for ads, but to really track them closely, you need to do it often, ideally daily. That’s what Notify is for.

We’re hopeful that someone else will replicate Notify in the near future, as we think it’s a very useful service for journalists, campaigners and researchers.

If you want to talk about doing that, get in touch!

Or if you’re a funder who wants to support us in extending the service, marketing it properly and so on, also let us know!

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*Suspending = Removing the ability to sign up via our website, removing all signed up emails and search preferences associated with the service. If we are able to re-launch it in the future, we’ll publicise this via our normal channels. 

**Ideas include:

  • Adding keyword searches rather than just actor-based tracking
  • Allowing for notifications on groups of advertisers
  • Adding regular spending updates and trends
  • Adding automated classification for the types of ads (e.g. fundraising vs. mobilisation vs. message ads)
  • Adding automated classification for media types of ads (e.g. the launches of new videos)
  • Notifying users of big changes in advertiser behaviour (e.g. X just tripled their spending or Y just launched hundreds of ads for the first time).
  • Adding Google/YouTube and Snapchat advertising data
  • Creating a paid-for, “pro” version of the tool that adds yet more features, insights and data.

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