Social network provider Facebook will open up targeting information for more than 1.3m social issue, electoral and political ads to researchers from 1 February. Privacy will be protected, says product manager Sarah Clark Schiff.

It is acting after feedback, particularly from academics, that understanding how advertisers choose to target audiences is key to learning more about the influence of digital ads on elections and other specific events.

The company has created the Facebook Open Research and Transparency (FORT) platform to enable researchers to study the impact of Facebook’s products on elections. The data package includes ads which ran during the three months up to the US presidential election on 3 November.

The Fort platform has been set up with measures to protect people’s privacy built in, said Schiff.

“By making the targeting criteria, such as location and interests, selected by advertisers running … [the] ads available for analysis and reporting, we hope to help people better understand the practices used to reach potential voters on Facebook,” she added.

The initiative also covers ads run on the company’s associated platform, Instagram.