UK government targets Facebook users across EU with Brexit ads

LONDON – The British government is targeting people across the European Union with Brexit-related advertising, according to a review of Facebooks transparency records by POLITICO.

In recent weeks, London has paid for ads that aim primarily to reach the over 1 million British citizens who live across the other 27 countries of the EU. The EU-wide ads include information about how the U.K.s upcoming departure from the EU would affect them.

It is unclear how many other EU nationals saw the ads, which also ran on Spotify, the popular music streaming service. The ads remind British citizens living across the EU to keep up to date with the latest Brexit developments, according to people who were targeted with those ads on Spotify.

Britains state-backed social media ad-buying campaign in other countries is not illegal. But its focus on Brexit — even though the governments campaign was mostly about information-sharing — could be viewed as political messaging.

If the ads are political in nature, the U.K.s tactics raise questions about the ability of national governments to target citizens beyond their borders – a practice that, in its extreme, was used by Russian-backed groups in an effort to sway voters during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

It also highlights the current limitations of Facebooks efforts to improve the transparency of political ads. Politicians across Europe, the United States and other countries have called on the company to limit the ability of foreign governments to target voters in other countries with such social media ads.

In the U.K., Ireland, the United States and Brazil, the worlds largest social network already has banned such practices, and Facebook is expected to extend this moratorium across Europe by the end of the week as part of a broader rollout of its political ad transparency tools, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

“We know what you are doing, and you will not succeed,” Theresa May said in 2017 when outlining the threat from Russias use of digital tricks like misinformation on social media to undermine Western democracies.

Under its current political ad transparency rules, Facebook provides a breakdown of the amount of money spent on the U.K. governments domestically focused social media ads — many of which have promoted Theresa Mays embattled Brexit deal that has yet to win parliamentary approval.

After the U.K. prime ministers speech to British voters last week, for instance, London spent up to £30,000 to promote videos of the address, which were viewed across the U.K. about 3 million times, according to Facebooks transparency register.

Yet details of Londons ad-buying in other EU countries has Read More – Source

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