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Statements of political ads on social media are incomplete

The advertentieoverzichten that Facebook, Google and Twitter in the run-up to the European Parliamentary elections have placed online to increase transparency, but were in the run up to and on the Dutch voting day is still incomplete and showed more defects, shows an analysis of NU.nl.

“Vote smart”, writes Catherine Rinzema, the number six on the list of candidates of the VVD in the European elections, in a Facebook ad on her page. The message is from may 21 to 23 on the social media has been active, is evident from Facebooks advertentiebibliotheek.

The social media has, like Google and Twitter, is committed to a code of conduct of the European Commission, in which they promise more transparency on how political parties, candidates, and political issues are advertised.

In Facebook every ad on elections include a disclaimer that makes it clear. Thus the voting recommendation of the VVD candidate Rinzema. Yet it was on 23 may, the day of the elections, is not the case. Thus, it was for Facebook users is not clear who the ad has paid and how much money on the Facebook-page of Rinzema spent.

“Political parties are very secretive about their strategy. There, they want to really not talk about it”
Tom Float, phd student University of Amsterdam

NU.nl the situation of the page of Rinzema Thursday on Facebook submitted. Thursday afternoon were several ads by the company are deleted because of the political disclaimer was missing. The example shows how the promise of more political transparency have not always can keep up with the daily practice.

“Reports are actually not at all transparent”

“The libraries of Facebook, Google and Twitter are actually not at all transparent”, is also the conclusion of Tom Float, who is with the University of Amsterdam phd research into the online communication of political parties.

One of his biggest concerns is that the companies have little visibility into who the political parties with their ads want to reach: the so-called (micro)targeting. Facebook offers advertisers the option to get their message to people interested in climate change), migration, or a specific political party.

“Political parties are very secretive about their strategy or campaign. There, they want to really not talk about it,” says Sinker. “In that sense, the advertentiebibliotheken help to better understand what political parties do.”

But whether-and the extent to which political parties communicate their message to target, from the statements of Facebook, Twitter and Google are not clear. The three companies will give only an indication of what the gender, age, and region of the persons is that the ad is ultimately seen.

While that insight according to Choice is important. In the first instance to political parties to be able to check, but also to citizens as good as possible. “The supposed effect of microtargeting is that people think that they are not targeting them, but a general ad. If that is not clear, there is a risk that the citizen of the political party is a wrong image.”

Advertentiebibliotheken show more defects

The advertentieoverzichten contend with more problems. So there is a delay on the statement that Facebook, Twitter and Google offer. Thus, it was on the day that the Netherlands voted, for example, not possible to have a fully current overview of the number of active running ads.

As advertised the y for the Animals on 23 may on Twitter about the European elections, but is now almost impossible to find. The party is a day later, at the time of publication of this article, not even in Twitters list of political advertisers (for the entire EU at all, consists of only 21 accounts, including three Dutch). That creates a false impression that the y for the Animals not on Twitter has advertised.

Defects in the advertentiebibliotheken

  • The libraries of Facebook, Twitter and Google are not up to date. Therefore, political parties in the run-up to the elections are not fully auditable
  • Missing accounts and pages that were in the statements have
  • The implementation is inconsistent between the different companies, some comparison and a complete list between the platforms hinders
  • Facebook, Twitter and Google do not provide any information about the audience is that the parties want to reach
  • The spent amounts are at Facebook and Google are classified in broad categories

Although Facebook, Google and Twitter with the European Commission the same agreement, it also differs the approach of each company. Facebook sees the page of the European Parliament (@europeanparliament) for example, if ‘political advertiser’, and thus gives insight in spent advertentiebedragen. On Twitter, the English-language account @Europarl_EN as the Dutch-speaking account @Europarl_NL not a political advertiser. These profiles are therefore not to be found in Twitters advertentieoverzicht, while the accounts which have been paid tweets about the election placed.

Also the amount spent per ad is not always explicitly stated, especially when it comes to small amounts. Instead, the ad is classified in a category that suggests that the advertising, for example, less than 100 euro (Facebook and Twitter) or less than 50 euro (Google) has claimed. Facebook and Google will also continue to higher amounts in the broad categories of amounts hang.

Twitter offers above 100 euros more insight, but that library is there, incomplete at the page of the VVD. It shows that the party of “no ads” has bought, while the same page shows that the party on Twitter to an active campaign against Forum for Democracy have been conducted.

Facebook only provides an overall insight into which demographic group an ad has reached. (Photo: Pro Shots)

Conclusion: more transparency is possible

Facebook, Google and Twitter gave during the parliamentary elections for the first time in Europe some insight into how politicians, political parties and other organisations that have political topics are active online worn.

According to candidate Choice is the signing of the EU code of conduct Facebook, Twitter and Google a way for the companies to stricter rules to avoid – although Facebook also explicitly emphasizes regulations, because the standardisation, and thus clarity can provide.

In the current form are the advertentieoverzichten in any case not be as transparent as possible, also independent of the missing information, and technical defects. “You did not fool many,” says Sinker.

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