Technology

Despite backlash, political parties still turn to Facebook to reach voters

Lawmakers just cant seem to quit Facebook.

Despite widespread criticism of the social networks handling of a series of recent data scandals, European politicians and political groups continue to buy advertising on its global platform, according to a review of advertising spending on Facebook by POLITICO.

Groups ranging from the European Peoples Party in the European Parliament to Emmanuel Macons La République En Marche to the far-right Alternative for Germany are some of the most active spenders on the social network.

This continued use of Facebook to reach potential voters raises questions about these lawmakers vocal criticism of the tech company, which has faced widespread rebukes following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal earlier this year.

While lawmakers scream and shout about Facebooks wrongdoings, many are more than happy to buy ads.

It also highlights that while several governments across Europe, in the United States and elsewhere are investigating the companys activities, many of these same political groups are also major purchasers of political advertising on its social network.

Last month, Facebook made it easier to check whos buying ads — and not just political ones — on its platform as part of efforts to win back peoples trust. However, the steps were not exhaustive as the company still does not disclose how much groups are spending on advertising. It also has limited the transparency efforts to so-called public pages that are open to all Facebook users, whereas the majority of peoples time is spent on private pages.

Below is a breakdown, based on POLITICOs review of political advertising, for European groups, as well as those in France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The list has its limits. It only includes ads bought through political groups public pages, and covers ads that are currently active.

But one thing is clear: While lawmakers scream and shout about Facebooks wrongdoings, many are more than happy to buy ads on its network to push their own political messages.

So heres whos buying ads (as of Monday):

— EU groups: The European Peoples Party and the Socialists and Democrats are the only major European political groups to buy space on Facebook, according to the companys new transparency service. For the EPP, messages focused on polling people about how the EU had changed their lives, while the S&D promoted “Friendship Day,” complete with its own hashtag.

— France: Taking a page out of last years presidential election, Emmanuel Macrons En Marche! continued with its digital spin, using Facebook to push messages around helping those with disabilities and (what else?) promoting French cooking.

— U.K.: Mimicking last years general election, Labour and the Liberal Democrats remain extremely active on Facebook, while the Conservatives and UKIP are silent. Interestingly, Momentum — the grassroots group with ties to Jeremy Corbyn — continues to buy online ads, with a recent focus on the elections for Labours National Executive Committee.

— Germany: The countrys traditional parties have been slow to take to social media to promote themselves — it is a land where the street poster remains a key political tool, after all. But the Alternative for Germany, the far-right group that did well in last years national election, has not been shy in spreading its messages through paid-for advertising on Facebook.

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