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Nearly £100K spent on Facebook adverts to convince public to support Brexit deal

The recent surge in political parties using social media platforms to promote political messages has led many to question whether the trend of subconsciously tapping into our minds will remain in the long term. The UK government has been criticised for spending nearly £100,000 of taxpayers’ money buying Facebook adverts to convince the British public to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

The hashtag #BackTheBrexitDeal was used to promote short videos explaining different aspects of the Brexit deal, such as immigration and the impacts on the question of borders in Ireland. These videos, accompanied by captions such as ‘I want to get on with Brexit’, showed people from different backgrounds explaining why they voted to leave the EU and why Theresa May’s Brexit deal is the one to support. The videos included an Irish woman explaining that May’s deal is the only way to keep the Irish border open and honour the Good Friday Agreement. It also included a black man explaining that the deal would allow talented people from the Commonwealth to have an equal chance of entering the UK and contributing to the economy.

The publicly-funded adverts cost the UK taxpayer £96,684 [and] were shown at least 5 million times in a week

Although Facebook was unable to verify who was targeted by these adverts, the publicly-funded adverts cost the UK taxpayer £96,684. These adverts were shown at least 5 million times in a week. Data shows that the Conservative Party also spent £40,000 of party funding on buying adverts to promote Theresa May’s deal, sparking anger from the Conservative faction that supports a hard Brexit.

Since the revelations of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has launched a tool to create a public archive in an attempt to become more transparent about political advertisers. Facebook hopes to combat “dark ads” and become more open about the role of advertising during the EU referendum. Furthermore, political advertisers must also verify a UK postal address to post political advertisement on Facebook. However, this does not shed light on the financial backers of political advertising campaigns, thus it is futile in determining who is funding political campaigns on Facebook.

Many news outlets have been criticised for trying to attract users through false content and spreading propaganda from governments using the Facebook newsfeed

Regardless of recent political scandals involving Facebook, the platform has also backtracked on forcing news outlets to register as a political advertiser to promote news stories. Facebook claims that they want to support journalism, and this would be problematic for various news outlets. Many news outlets have been criticised for trying to attract users through false content and spreading propaganda from governments using the Facebook newsfeed, particularly during election times.

Not only is the Conservative Party spending taxpayers’ money on Facebook adverts to increase support for Theresa May’s deal, but The People’s Vote campaign spent £47,000 on adverts to convince people that Theresa May’s deal does not satisfy any group and that a second referendum is needed before any deal with the EU is made. Thus, criticising solely the Leave campaign for using social media to further their cause is unfair as both sides have exploited the lack of regulation on social media to further their causes. Creating political adverts on unregulated social media platforms is becoming rife on both sides of the political spectrum.

As more political groups use platforms such as Facebook to attract support, [there has been] increasing outcries for greater transparency from news outlets, social media platforms and governments

The Conservative Party has been criticised for spending taxpayers’ money to garner support for Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which many have claimed was a waste of public money as the vote did not eventually go ahead. As more political groups use platforms such as Facebook to attract support, increasing outcries for greater transparency from news outlets, social media platforms and governments, particularly in terms of funding sources, have forced companies such as Facebook to verify their political users. Regardless of this, the Conservative Party is continuing to attract supporters using social media and will continue to use hashtags such as #BackTheBrexitDeal to support Theresa May.

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