back to article Facebook pimping for politicos despite fake news 'purge'

National elections in the UK and US, and Britain's 2016 referendum on membership of the EU demonstrated the growing power of social media to swing views and win votes. Twitter gets a lot of attention due to its use by journalists and politicians – not least president-elect Donald Trump – and its relative openness making it …

  1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Oooh, I see a BIIIIG problem here....

    UK electoral laws on spending can be very tricky. There are very strict rules on expenditure by (or on behalf of) candidates in a constituency, but no limits on national spending by a party. I'm not sure if the fact that an advert is targetted at an individual elector has an impact (e.g. via e-mail, facebook based on their profile) - I suspect that as an individual elector can only vote once then the advert would be deemed to be for the candidate even if they aren't mentioned by name.

    But if the national party is focusing advertising on a particular constituency they may have crossed the line, in which case the cost of the adverts will need to be added to the candidates bill, and as they normally spend right up to the limit that would push them over, and make them in breach of electoral law.

    I think this should be referred to the powers-that-be for some guidance. Do we have any constituency specific examples?

  2. davenewman

    Re: Oooh, I see a BIIIIG problem here....

    In by-elections all the online advertising should declared alongside the newspaper advertising. You could check that to find the ratio of the different types of advertising, then look at elections where more than one ward or constituency is up to see if there could be undeclared expenses.

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Re: Oooh, I see a BIIIIG problem here....

    I feel like a bit of stiring here - I've contacted the Electoral Commission for their comments!

  4. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    Re: Oooh, I see a BIIIIG problem here....

    Surely general party advertising on facebook to individuals would fall under whatever rules there are for sending a general party letter to people's homes?

  5. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Re: Oooh, I see a BIIIIG problem here....

    Two bigger problems for the UK are

    1) Voters have proved to be morons, in the sense of voting with little or know knowledge and seeming not even to care. The "tired of experts" comment should have seen Gove ridiculed and forced to stand down, but no it was proven "right".

    2) The UK's first-past-the post system is seriously sensitive to small changes, and indeed has been getting worse over the years. Covered here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9rGX91rq5I

  6. Dr Scrum Master

    Re: Oooh, I see a BIIIIG problem here....

    1) Voters have proved to be morons, in the sense of voting with little or know knowledge and seeming not even to care. The "tired of experts" comment should have seen Gove ridiculed and forced to stand down, but no it was proven "right".

    And politicians are complicit in that ignorance.

    Whenever groups like the BNP campaign in areas and look like they might succeed you get the lazy response from the mainstream politicians of "Don't let the BNP win" or "Keep the Fascists out", etc. This response does nothing to address the concerns of those who've found the BNP's messages attractive; in fact it only goes to further alienate those voters. Wherever groups like the BNP operate you'll find that they get out and go door-to-door, and talk to people who feel that they've been ignored by the main political parties.

    If mainstream political parties actually got out and campaigned, particularly between elections, then people might feel less ignored and might become more informed in the process.

  7. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Re: Oooh, I see a BIIIIG problem here....

    The UK's first-past-the post system is seriously sensitive to small changes, and indeed has been getting worse over the years.

    Sadly, the Great British People voted not to switch to a representative democracy in 2011. That was the point at which I decided: right then, fuck the lot of you, I'm looking out for number one now. No more Mister Nice Guy.

  8. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Re: Oooh, I see a BIIIIG problem here....

    I know what you're saying, but I'd put a bit of nuance on it and put it like this: "politicians should seek to understand what voters find attractive about hard right / racist / neo-Nazi parties, and work out how to discredit the narrative by demolishing the lies, myths and half-truths that feed them."

    The biggest problem in the UK is 30 years of tabloid filth which has gone largely* uncontested by mainstream politicians. Once you cede the narrative that says immigration is a problem, rather than a massive asset to culture and society as well as the only thing that's propped the economy up for the last 50 years, you're just left with arguing that it's not very nice to be a racist without explaining why. Of course the under-educated and less intelligent members of society fall for that crap when no-one's explaining how they're lies, and why the liars are telling them.

  9. Magani
    FAIL

    Not My Fault...

    "We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves," wrote its boss Mark Zuckerberg in November, "but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties."

    I read this as "blame anyone but us if it's wrong".

  10. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Re: Not My Fault...

    The problem I can see is that most news report where I know something about the subject matter are riddled with errors. I have to assume this is true for all the other reports as well unless journalists are just really ill-informed about the things I know about. Does that make them all 'fake news' and should Facebook, or any other on-line aggregator, be responsible for correcting them?

  11. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Re: Not My Fault...

    Truth is absolute - something is or isn't true, so it's not too difficult (in principle) to be an arbiter of truth.

    But Zuck is quite happy to be an arbiter of morality, which is something that varies widely. His moral views (e.g. worse-than-Victorian attitude to images) must be enforced.

    He doesn't do irony I assume?

  12. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Re: Not My Fault...

    'Truth is absolute - something is or isn't true, so it's not too difficult (in principle) to be an arbiter of truth.'

    But finding out what is the truth can be very difficult. How do wings work? What about gravity? And they're fundamental truths as opposed to 'Immigrants contribute more to the economy than they take out' which is highly debatable as the recent study saying they did wasn't as clear cut as the Guardian headline would indicate.

    Of course politicians complaining about untruths is likely to make anyone's irony meter explode anyway.

  13. Trigonoceps occipitalis

    Re: Not My Fault...

    "but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties."

    As in "Show me the money!"

  14. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Don''t discount the apps

    These days Facebook users are generally older and unemployed - most of the younger people I know have stopped using Facebook and moved to Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram etc. in small social groups. I think that Facebook is heading downhill in the long term.

  15. Your alien overlord - fear me
    Pirate

    Is wasn't Facebook wot won the election, it was Putin :-)

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Stop

    The problem with fact-checking

    .. is spotting the facts.

    Too may opinions or theories nowadays are elevated to "fact" status, to prevent discussion.

  18. PTW
    Flame

    Re: The problem with fact-checking

    Like this very article announcing that Facebork swung the EU Referendum and the US Presidential election!

    Remainers and Democrats just can't bring themselves to believe that the majority of the voting populace are so sick to the back teeth of their organisations' BS/corruption/ideals/etc. that they felt the need to get out and vote for change.

    It's as simple as that, YOU.ARE.ON.THE.LOSING.SIDE! Please now move on, I'm fucking bored to death of "the Russians", "Facebook", "fake news", "Murdoch press", blah, blah, fucking blah! Sore losers doesn't even come close.

    Cue whining "...electoral college", "not every person of voting age voted", ...again, blah, blah, blah That's been the same for every single vote of its type so far, so please I beg of you STFU!

  19. cray74 Silver badge

    Re: The problem with fact-checking

    Remainers and Democrats just can't bring themselves to believe that the majority minority of the voting populace

    FTFY. Trump lost the popular vote by several million to Hillary, and was behind by 10 million votes overall.

  20. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Instead of "I saw on Faecebook" try "Some ejit down the pub told me"

  21. Chemical Bob Bronze badge
    WTF?

    Fake news? Targeted advertising? What's the difference?

  22. thames

    Facebook, tanking credit for electoral victories? Eh?

    "Brexit does not yet appear among Facebook's list of electoral success stories – although it does list ... along with victories by Canadian Liberals,"

    Eh? A quick google of news stories related to the last Canadian federal election has them saying that digital media had little or no influence on the outcome of the election. For example: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-election-2015-social-media-1.3277007 ( Social media's significance oversold amid election hype ).

    Very few people (single digit percentages) in Canada do anything political on Facebook. Those who do are mainly people who are already deeply committed to a point of view and unlikely to change their minds regardless. There's also no evidence that social media had anything influence on voter turnout.

    What decided the last election was that the Liberals, the party that has ruled Canada for most of the past century, got their act together again after years of backstabbing and infighting, and allowed voters a palatable choice for ejecting the deeply detested Harper Conservatives (the Harper faction being so deeply detested that prominent mainstream Conservatives came out openly against him and asked their supporters not to vote for the party).

    Journalists rely so heavily upon Twitter for their news releases that they over-estimate the influence that social media has on everyone else. This isn't just my opinion, this is what journalists themselves had to say about it.

    Facebook is simply hyping their supposed influence in an attempt to sell more ads. Shock! Horror! Purveyor of dubious ads and fake news makes dubious claims about the effectiveness of giving them more money!

    Why do they list Canada's 2015 election as a success? Simple, it was a relatively well known recent election where the existing government got tossed out and the result wasn't something so controversial that Facebook was afraid to associate their brand name with it.

    Facebook is part of the advertising industry, and it shouldn't be too surprising that an advertising firm makes ridiculous claims in an effort to sell more product.

  23. oneeye

    Censorship is coming to a Democracy near YOU!

    Those in power will use propaganda to hold onto power, and anything that challenged that will be labeled "Fake News" A Free and Open Internet is not when the tech Giants join with the MSM in shaping the narrative, and shouting down or flagging any challenge. These Echo Chambers already exists on multitudes of websites. Challenged issues will bring out the Ban-Hammer.

  24. TheDillinquent

    FBP

    Another reason to use a FB ad blocker:- http://www.fbpurity.com/install.htm?v=17.2.0

  25. Tom Paine Silver badge
    Flame

    Just wow.

    I missed this at the time.

    those campaigning to leave the EU used other types of Facebook targeting, such as its ability to identify racists. Leave.EU, a pro-Brexit group allied to Ukip leader Nigel Farage, used Facebook to target supporters of groups [paywalled] including the British National Party and the National Front. Shipman writes that it stopped doing this after being caught out by Tom Edmonds, the Remain side's Facebook expert, who set up fake profiles for far-right extremists and spotted the Leave.EU adverts.

    I don't think any further comment is necessary.

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