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(MIDDLETOWN, CT) September 1, 2020 – With Facebook online ads making up a large part of political advertising, the Wesleyan Media Project (WMP) strives to use the Facebook data in its reporting on campaign spending. To do this, WMP uses the Facebook spending reports that are posted on the Facebook Ad Library website.

Between arriving as a download and appearing as a tidbit of information on a website, a report undergoes several transformations, depending on the final use of the information. Some of them involve cleaning up data, others involve classification into political entities. An entity is a unique combination of a page name and the organization that funded an ad (the sponsor). We use entity for continuity in reporting, because Facebook pages can change their names and are free to run ads with funding from any sponsor.

For the weekly spending reports WMP cleans up text fields (the mismatched quotation marks that can ruin data import), provides last known page names when the pages get deleted, and associates the page names and funding disclaimers with political entities. We use the Sunday-Saturday as a definition of a week.

For the aggregate spending reports, WMP uses the same transformations as for weekly spending and also uses an optimization algorithm to minimize the round-off error in Facebook reporting for small advertisers. You can read more about this method in this blogpost, written by Wesleyan’s Pavel Oleinikov.