Inconsistencies found in online political advertising for 2019 poll – report
The research examined the political advertising activity on Facebook, Twitter and Google during the European election campaign.
A report on online political advertising during the 2019 European election has found inconsistencies in how political and “issue-based” advertising was defined.
The report was commissioned by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and carried out by the Institute for Future Media and Journalism (FuJo) at Dublin City University (DCU).
The research examined political advertising activity on Facebook, Twitter and Google during the 2019 European election campaign.
It looked at the platforms’ commitment to the European Commission’s code of practice on disinformation, which is self-regulatory and designed to address the spread of online disinformation and fake news.
More than 1,500 political advertisements included in ad libraries and datasets provided by Facebook, Twitter and Google were monitored to find out whether the advertisement was paid for and who paid for it, if it was a political or issues-based ad and if it included information on micro-targeting.
Our findings indicate that the digital platforms have much room for improvement if they are to comply with their commitments under the code of practice on disinformation FuJo director Jane Suiter
The report found that while some information relative to the research questions could be found from the supplied datasets, it was not possible to arrive at a clear, fully comprehensive picture of the native and scale of political advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Google due to inconsistencies in the datasets.
It also found that issue-based adverts concerned with campaigning issues such as immigration and the environment, rather than election candidates or parties, were labelled by Facebook but not by Twitter and Google.
FuJo director Jane Suiter said “Online advertising offers an effective means of reaching target audiences so it is unsurprising that it is now integral to any modern, political campaign.
“However, the lack of transparency presents significant risks and challenges, and could potentially undermine the integrity of the electoral process.
“Our findings indicate that the digital platforms have much room for improvement if they are to comply with their commitments under the code of practice on disinformation.”
BAI chief executive Michael O’Keeffe said the report shows that three platforms “actively engaged with their commitments to support electoral transparency”.
“However, it also shows a lack of consistency from platform to platform in how they presented the data and in how political and issue-based advertising was defined,” he added.
Following the report, FuJo has made recommendations to the Department of the Taoiseach’s public consultation on regulation of online political advertising in Ireland.