One thing is clear, and that is that certain political groups have spent an increasing amount on adverts placed on Facebook. An anonymous website selected Facebook as their medium to place adverts. These encourage the British voters to get into contact with their MP via email and to urge them to back Brexit and bin Chequers.
The enquiry by the government regarding the fake news led to the discovery of a site titled the Mainstream Network, a site that has spent a large sum worth £250,000 on the campaign that is pro-Brexit. Currently. No information has been published to reveal the owner/s of Mainstream Network or its funders.
Facebook Changes Rules on Political Adverts
Earlier this week, Facebook announced its new rules regarding political advertising and moving forward the site will require all political advertisers to prove that they are based in the United Kingdom and their identity, before the run of any political adverts. The new Facebook rules set also include that all political advertisers would be required to declare who funded the advert before it would be considered.
Political Adverts Designed to Influence MPs
Chairman of the Commons, Damien Collins said it is the perfect example of a sophisticated organisation that spend large sums of money on a political campaign and no one has an idea of who is behind it. The only one knowing who is paying or political adverts is Facebook, and Collins is part of the committee that investigated the fake news, both his and Paul Farrelly have been amongst the MPs who have been targeted via ads placed on Facebook.
The group that uncovered the adverts and shared their full analysis are Campaign Group 89UP, which shared that these adverts were designed to influence the MPs.
Adverts Take Visitors to Local MP and Constituency
By clicking on the adverts, the visitor is taking straight to the webpage of their local MPs or constituency, one more click and it automatically generates an email, pre-written to the MP, the message is to demand that they inform the prime minister to rid of the Chequers deal. The email also automatically includes Mainstream Network, which means the website to receive a copy of each of the messages sent by the user.
89UP researchers now estimate that the amount spent by Mainstream Network adds up to an estimated £257,000, all spend to promote posts across Facebook, in the hope of reaching 11 million users in the process. This action also suggests that the practise of Mainstream Network copying their email address into the blind address field of the emails may result in a GDPR breach. Even though Facebook has placed a new transparency code in place for all political ads in the UK, the rid Chequers add was posted well before the new code came into effect. For now, none of the Mainstream Network adds can be found on Facebook. In the end, election interference can’t be prevented although the transparency of ads allows researchers, journalists and interested parties to raise questions.