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Britain's Political Parties Are Spending Millions on Voter Micro-Targeting

The data that turned the world upside down continues to do so.

Ben Sullivan

Ben Sullivan

European Parliament/Flickr

Facebook is going all in on Britain's General Election next month. Not content with purveying over some 31 million Brits politically squabbling among themselves in the run up to June 8, Facebook has now employed ex-political campaigners from the UK's political parties to help campaign, target, and subvert users on the platform.

This is according to The Guardian, to which Facebook confirmed it has employed staff "whose role it is to help politicians and governments make good use of Facebook".

Of course, Facebook's no stranger to political intervention. The social network played a pivotal part in 2016's Brexit campaign alongside the Trump vs Clinton battle in the US.

But Facebook appears to be doubling down on what its political campaigners are calling 'micro-targeting', and employing former campaigners such as the Conservative Party's Rishi Saha to boost its reputation in politics as a tool.

"You are not just advertising to them once; if they click, you know a specific person has shown an interest," an anonymous campaigner told The Guardian in a conservation about targeting Facebook users. "You can feed that back and know who and where they are, down to the postcode. Then you can change the messaging to suit what you need politically."

This could be used to devastating effect ahead of June 8, as both Labour and the Conservatives plough millions into Facebook advertising, according to the newspaper.

A US strategist who was integral to the Leave.EU campaign during last year's Brexit referendum, Gerry Gunster, told the BBC on Monday, "You can say to Facebook, I would like to make sure that I can micro-target fishermen in certain parts of the UK so that they are specifically hearing that if you vote to leave that you will be able to change the way that the regulations are set for the fishing industry."

The data that turned the world upside down continues to do so. It might seem obvious to those in the media and technology industries that governments will increasingly use Facebook as a tool just like advertisers do, but it's important to remember the general public will be targeted unknowingly, passively, but to great effect.

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