By Selina Gill
How Facebook advertising now predetermines our voting behaviour
and the impact this has on our social media habits
Facebook advertisements have been shown to be tailored to people’s demographics, including age, gender, political beliefs etc…. However, Facebook users are not necessarily aware of the extent to which this is done.
With the build up to December’s general election, the major political parties running have turned to Facebook to advertise why their party should win. Members who form part of the official campaigns use this concept of ‘electioneering’ to track and target the types of Facebook users who are likely to vote for them through targeted ads on their feed.
Within the last week, over £58,000 was spent by both main parties running, where Labour purchased 79 targeted Facebook ads, and the Conservatives spent a similar amount on 103 of them. If this much was spent by both parties this week alone; imagine how much impact more spending over the next few weeks can have!
Whilst the motives of these advertisements are transparent, the lack of policing from The Electoral Commission enables malicious and targeted attacks against the opposing party. For instance, a paid Facebook ad from Labour this week mentions how Boris Johnson’s Brexit would be disastrous and would sell the NHS to Donald Trump. By contrast, the Conservatives posted a misleading, edited video from Good Morning Britain about Labour’s position of Brexit that could not provide an answer on whether they will choose to remain or leave.
The nature of electioneering on Facebook’s platform clearly detracts from any democracy that should be prevalent in the current political climate.
However, this issue is not just isolated to Facebook and voting advertisements. Do you ever wonder how advertisements across all your social media platforms are similar to the products you would normally purchase? Do some of these ads appear to be tailor made for you?
Businesses adopt a similar concept to the people working on the political campaigns, by using algorithms to track people’s purchasing habits. Once certain software and algorithms understand that individual’s online behaviour, appropriate advertisements are regularly shown on that person’s social media feed, having an inevitable impact on their social media and spending habits.