I'm going to go out on a limb here and presume that at least 75% of the people reading this piece have an active Facebook account. Such is the all-encompassing ubiquity of the great social media titan, that it's not unrealistic of me to make this claim, particularly given the media-savvy and socially engaged sorts that tend to be drawn to Creativepool (I don't know If I'm blowing smoke up our arse or yours with that one). Facebook is the ultimate echo chamber when it comes to political opinion. We are, generally speaking, hard-wired to attach ourselves to people who share, or at least accept and encourage, many of our beliefs, ideals and opinions. As such, the only voices of political dissent tend to come from relatives, barely acknowledged acquaintances and those 'mates' you didn't really talk to at school but decided to add anyway to bolster your friendship portfolio. As such, it's ripe breeding ground for targeted political ads. Indeed, I struggle to boot up Facebook without being bombarded by Labour and Lib Dem ads, whilst Tory spots are pretty thin on the ground.
This leads me to one point; what actually is the point? Seriously. Despite the fact I have about as much faith in Jeremy Corbyn as I do in myself, I will be voting Labour on June 8. The vast majority of my friends on Facebook will probably be doing likewise. So. What exactly do these targeted ads hope to achieve? I understand the appeal in targeting younger voters who might be willing to shirk their vote because of general complacency, but I'm a 31 year old man who is old enough to have settled into his ways, but young enough to see that the Conservative manifesto is nothing more than a Labour-light shill. They have nothing to gain by targeting me. I've made my mind up and so have most of my friends. That being said, the real danger here is in the so-called 'dark ads' that spread misinformation and propaganda. The idea is, presumably, that enough of these ads, put in front of the right people, could swing allegiances. We are emotional creatures after all.
It's been said that there are around 68 different types of political adverts tailored to individual social media users and this murky world of online political advertising has until now gone largely unmonitored, despite the fact that social media messaging is thought to have largely contributed to the Donald Trump and Vote Leave victories. A project called “Who Targets Me” has been set up to address this by recruiting social media users to share what they're seeing on their personal feeds. More than 4,000 people across the UK have so far installed the extension, making the Who Targets Me dataset the largest of its kind. My goal is not quite as ambitious, but I am curious to see what other social media users have been targeted with. So. Do you think you're being targeted by the Torys of Labour? Or even the Green Party, Lib Dems, UKIP or the SNP? Let me know in the comments below with a snapshot of the offending ad and just one sentence explaining where/when the ad appeared why you think you were targeted. The most shameless example gets a special shout out!
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.