The Bristol Cable

the results are in…here is where the investigation lead

Sign up to Who Targets Me, and help the Cable find out how political parties are targeting Bristolians on facebook.

Photo: Flickr/ Michael (CC By 2.0)

The use of political adverts tailored to individual social media users has led some to bill June 8th as the ‘dark ads’ general election. We need you, people in Bristol, to help us gather data to monitor the dark ads in Bristol.

With your support, and in collaboration with partners nationally, the Cable will try to lift the lid on the unchecked power of dark ads on our democracy.

Unlike conventional adverts, ‘dark ads’ on Facebook are targeted based on detailed user data. As well as precision targeting, the adverts can be made quickly to respond to current events. When combined with calls to action, hyperlinks and videos, these adverts are a powerful and little-understood phenomenon which may change the outcome of the election.

As Maeve McClenaghan of the Bureau for Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) writes, “the shadowy world of online political advertising has until now gone largely unmonitored, despite the huge power and reach of Facebook and despite social media messaging being thought to have contributed to the Donald Trump and the Vote Leave victories.

“In an effort to do something about this lack of transparency, Who Targets Me has built a browser extension for Facebook users to download that will then report live to that individual when a political advert is being targeted at them. It also tracks that information in its database.”

The Cable is asking people in Bristol to install the Who Targets Me Chrome extension so that we can gather the data we need to  shine a light on how political parties are targeting facebook users in Bristol. Working in partnership with the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, the Cable will analyse the information collected to build a picture of how political parties are using ‘dark-ads’ to target voters in Bristol with specific messages to influence the election.

To get a fuller picture of what the political parties are telling people online, we need more people to sign up. We need volunteers of all ages from all political backgrounds and affiliations in order to get the most representative sample possible.

Sign up to be a Who Targets Me volunteer here. You will need to use the Chrome browser and install the Who Targets Me extension.

As it stands, Bristol West has the highest level of users of the browser extension within Bristol. Therefore we especially need you to sign up if you live in Bristol South, Bristol East or Bristol North West. We need you to sign up as soon as possible, so we can start collecting more data. We will analyse that data and publish our findings before the election on June 8th.

Speaking to TBIJ, Will Moy, director of independent fact checking website Full Fact, said: “It’s possible to target dark ads at millions of people in this country without the rest of us knowing about it. Inaccurate information could be spreading with no-one to scrutinise it. Democracy needs to be done in public.”

With your support, and in collaboration with partners nationally, the Cable will try to lift the lid on the unchecked power of dark ads on our democracy.

For more information, read this report by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism.

 

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