Facebook Ad Report Puts Beto O’Rourke as Top Spender, After Facebook

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. said the top spender on political ads on its sites since May was U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Republican Ted Cruz in Texas.

The social network released a new Ad Archive report as part of an effort to be more transparent about political promotions after Russian operatives used its service to stir up conflict in the U.S. around the 2016 presidential race. O’Rourke, whose Beto for Texas campaign shelled out $5.37 million on Facebook sites from May to Oct. 20, was the biggest spender in that period on ads "related to politics and issues of national importance," Facebook said. He was followed by President Donald Trump’s political action committee, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, which spent $3.14 million.

Still, below the campaign chart in fine print is a note that clarifies that the actual top political spender -- adding up to more than the spending of the first two combined -- is Facebook itself. The social-media company has been running a campaign totaling $12.5 million worth of ads on Facebook and Instagram, seeking to convince the public that it’s addressing big issues -- such as misinformation and election interference. Some of the ads tout the company’s investments in security and acknowledge mistakes the company has made, and others encourage users to register and vote.

Trust in Facebook has been eroded after a year of scandals, from a steady series of privacy breaches to the proliferation of fake news and hate speech on its sites. It’s also facing stepped-up scrutiny from lawmakers who accuse the Menlo Park, California-based company of political bias and mishandling user information. In response, it’s rolled out transparency tools to mend its image and help users understand who is paying for ads, and how they are targeted.

While the company’s campaign on its own sites may demonstrate anxiety about users continuing to share on its sites, it underscores Facebook’s confidence about one thing: the power of its advertising business.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.