Facebook Must Develop Safeguards for Political Data-Driven Advertising & Targeting

This is a case study of Facebook’s work for Judicial Watch illustrating how the media, digital advertising & social networking company uses micro-targeting and tracking for political causes.


Established in 1994, Judicial Watch (link is external) is a conservative non-partisan government watchdog organization that promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and law. It has filed lawsuits against the last several US presidential administrations.

The organization wanted to reach its current supporters, educate them about the work it is currently involved in and encourage them to donate both online and offline.

With advanced matching for Custom Audiences, we can now reach donors who were previously invisible to us on Facebook for a fraction of the cost of other channels. We now have the ability to reach our audience with simultaneous online and offline messaging, which increases lift and our return on ad spend.” -John Britten, Digital Director, Judicial Watch
Judicial Watch wanted to determine if serving its supporters Facebook ads would make them more likely to donate. The organization used advanced matching for Custom Audiences to find and reach its supporters on Facebook, and encourage them to donate. Advanced matching for Custom Audiences is a targeting tool that allows advertisers to upload multiple data points at once to create an audience on Facebook. Data points include general information like first and last name, zip code, state, country, age and gender, and also email, phone number, mobile advertiser ID and Facebook app user ID. The organization then ran Canvas (link is external) and link ads (link is external) to educate supporters on the work it is doing on the Hillary Clinton email controversy. The interactive ads highlighted the results Judicial Watch has already achieved—including 20 active lawsuits and more than 180 Freedom of Information requests—and encouraged viewers to donate to the organization. Next, Judicial Watch used the conversion lift tool to segment its target audience of supporters into a test and control group. It then used offline events manager, a new tool that allows offline tracking on multiple data points, to evaluate how the ads influenced offline donations via the organization’s direct mail program. Using both tools, Judicial Watch accurately measured the impact of the ads on online and offline donations.
facebook judicial watch
Using a variety of Facebook’s advanced advertising tools, Judicial Watch reached and engaged with hundreds of thousands of supporters on Facebook and measured the impact in a statistically significant manner. Its campaign achieved:
  • 40-point increase in in match rate using advanced matching
  • 393,409 supporters reached on mobile
  • 72% of those reached were age 45 and up (a key demographic)
  • Statistically significant increase in offline and online donations among males and those age 65 and up
  • 82% of Canvas viewed on average