As we enter the final phase of fierce electioneering ahead of the general election on 12 December, the political parties are hoping that strident messaging, micro-targeting and mudslinging will help them secure a parliamentary majority.
The 2019 general election has been characterised by controversy, allegations of foul play and widespread disdain for the political class.
From a doctored video of Labour’s Brexit Secretary Kier Starmer and the Conservatives’ rebranding their Twitter account to Fact Check UK, to redacted dossiers on the NHS, suppressed documents exposing Russian interference and fears of voter apathy, these are turbulent times for politics.
Amid the wider crisis of trust, social media has taken centre stage and, in particular, the influence Facebook wields over the political debate.
The social network’s decision to call political posts opinion pieces and satire, therefore free from fact-checking, has sparked fury. Whereas Google has banned targeting ads based on a voter’s political leanings and Twitter imposed a global ban on political advertising, Facebook has resolutely refused to walk away from political advertising.
Speaking in early November, Facebook head of UK public policy Rebecca Stimson claimed Facebook offers a “far greater level of transparency” on political advertising than other channels due to features like the ad library, where advertiser’s details are labelled and saved for seven years.
While the debate rages as to whether Facebook has taken rigorous enough steps to protect the political debate, ad library data is being used to highlight the level of spending by the various parties.
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