Elections becoming a big business for Facebook

Social media is increasingly becoming more important in the fighting of elections.

Political parties can post videos or short picture messages with slogans and then, for a price, insert that on the newsfeed of groups according to location, age, gender, etc.

If candidates hit the right nerve with the public they can crowd source enough money to run their campaign within a day.

It’s less intrusive than phone canvassing (which never really took off here) and besides more and more households simply do not have a landline handset these days.

Facebook had a huge role to play in the Brexit and U.S. election campaigns. In Britain they have now employed former aides of David Cameron and Ed Balls . Elections are a good opportunity to make a profit.

Does it need to be regulated? Can legislators and government agencies get to grips with the complicated algorithms of the Internet? Not anytime soon.

A new software tool has been launched – Who targets me  – to help voters to track how parties insert political messages onto their Facebook feeds.

Ultimately nothing will better face to face engagement and giving the doors a good rattle. But more votes than ever are being won and lost on social media.

Some may feel that targeted campaigning is intrusive. However on the other side of the coin social media has empowered grassroots campaigns and helped to hold politicians to account.

Members of the public cannot escape political parties targeting them through Facebook but political parties cannot escape the public targeting them either.

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  • Granni Trixie

    I think I’m right in saying that voter recognition is a key influence on how people vote hence candidates/parties cannot afford to ignore any means of publicity. This is why that old chestnut “to put up posters or not” usually ends up with posters being put up albeit sometimes with misgivings.

    I completely agree with Daithi that there is no substitute for face to face engagement on the doorsteps – not so much because it is an opportunity to intellectually persuade voters so much as persuade them by leaving a favourable impression and personalising your party. Annoying them will be long remembered and have the opposite effect so there are risks. Social media is also potentially risky as amateur activists can find out to their costs. But one well worth taking!
    I also agree with th poster that phone canvassing is probably seen as more intrusive than other tactics.

  • Jag

    I don’t use Facebook because of the data they collect (everything from the position of your mouse on the screen, to the detail of every other site you visit, to location, to knowing your social network) and I don’t believe Facebook’s stats (didn’t a recent study find there were fewer 15-year olds on this entire planet than were claimed as Facebook users). In order to access other people’s Facebook pages, I have to do a google search for the person (site:facebook.com “Daithi McKay” for example) and load their page in my cache, otherwise, I have to have a Facebook account or constantly enter security codes (yeah, right, like Facebook doesn’t like bot traffic!).

    However, isn’t it the case that Trump spent $250m of $340m election spending on Facebook?

  • Barney

    There was a great article in the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy
    Explaining how micro targeting was used in the EU referendum. Lots of interesting questions are raised and a brief explanation of how political parties may circumvent electoral law.
    Of course how all the leave “parties” including the DUP managed to find the same micro managing consultancy firm without colluding/coordinating strategy was left rather vague.

  • Granni Trixie

    And isn’t the general lack of transparency as seen in not publishing party donors one of the problems at Stormont?

  • tcgriffin

    I wonder if this mightn’t look like a solution to the DUP’s ‘crocodile’ problem. It must make it easier to play to your own base without running the risk of winding up your opponent’s electorate.

  • Ryan

    Jag, I went into Little Wing last night and ordered a bottle of Moretti Beer. A few minutes later when I took a quick look at Facebook (I was waiting on a guy responding to a message) and there as bold as brass was an advertisement for Moretti Beer.
    Maybe it was just pure coincidence, but for a long time there have been rumours that Facebook take complete control of your phone and could even harvest data from the microphone on your handset whilst you are not using your phone.

  • Jag

    Remember the Facebook boss puts tape over the camera, and a jack in the microphone (to prevent recording). https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ce33e98e57db71a456b3eba991d1a383eca34aaf576eb94906a6bdf2e77f94fc.jpg