Exclusive research by The Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising demonstrates that heavy Facebook users tend to hold more extreme political views

Political advertising can’t go on in the way it was executed in the 2019 UK election. If you like the work we’ve been doing over the election please consider donating to our campaign here. We rely on donations to continue our work.


 

  • The research conducted using one of the market leaders in panel and census internet data appears to demonstrate that heavy Facebook users tend to have more extreme political views.
  • We propose that the findings have implications for how disinformation and extreme views can spread on Facebook. For example, due to the way algorithms on social platforms work this can often mean that more extreme views get a disproportionate share of impressions.
  • We argue that this data reinforces the need for there to be rules for claims in political advertising and content.
  • Facebook is often criticised for not fact-checking political ads and content. However, the solution for  political advertising are similar rules being set up to those that govern all other advertising via the ASA – not in individual media owners applying their own rules.

Alex Tait, Co-Founder of the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising comments:

“The debate in the UK election has never been more polarised. It is also proving to contain an unprecedented amount of misinformation and disinformation from the political parties. It has often been said that false information travels faster than truth in social media. That’s partly because it is fertile ground for spreading misleadingness in political information as its heavy users are very engaged. This research supports that and emphasises further the urgent need to modernise the rules for political ads.”

The research

 We have taken the reach of newspaper websites, and used that as a proxy for internet users’ political opinions using a methodology developed by YouGov.

These appear to show that heavier users of Facebook are more likely to hold political views towards the extremes of the political spectrum.

The chart below shows the percentage of heavy, moderate and light Facebook users visiting each of the websites along the x axis.

Screenshot 2019-12-04 at 13.43.11

When we look at indices, we also see heavier Facebook users exhibiting the more extreme behaviours, as the charts below demonstrate.

So, for example, heavy Facebook users are 7.25 times more likely to visit Labour.org.uk or 9.3 times more likely to visit Conservatives.com than the average internet user (625 and 930 respectively against an index of 100 representing the average internet user).

Screenshot 2019-12-04 at 13.43.22

This chart shows (against an index of 100 for the average Facebook user) how much heavy, moderate and light Facebook users visit each of the websites along the x axis. We have again attempted to rank the websites from left to right in their political persuasion. To give another example, a heavy Facebook user is 7.25 times more likely to visit Breitbart.com than the average Facebook user (725 against an index of 100 representing the average Facebook user).

Screenshot 2019-12-04 at 13.43.30

Research methodology

 ‘Heavy’ Facebook users are defined as the top 20% by time spent, the ‘moderate’ the next 30% and the ‘light’ the bottom 50%.

We used one of the market leaders in online panel and census methodology data. Their approach combines person-level measurement from a global panel with census-informed tonnage of consumption to account for 100 percent of a property’s audience.

Participating companies place tags on all their content – web pages, videos, apps and ads, and these calls are recorded by the measurement providers servers every time content is accessed. The provider is able to view these calls on its global panel in addition to measuring the census tag calls. This perspective allows the measurement provider to validate that the tags are measuring activities consistent with its audience measurement methodology. Additionally, the company has developed a proprietary methodology to combine panel and server-side metrics in order to calculate audience reach in a manner that is not affected by variables such as cookie deletion and cookie blocking/rejection.

For more information about the research or the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising’s campaign contact alex.tait@reformpoliticaladvertising.org.uk.

 

The Yorkshire Party Supports the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising’s campaign to stop misleading political ads

Screenshot 2019-11-29 at 17.13.58

The Yorkshire Party has announced its support for the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising and its aim to modernise the outdated rules for political advertising.

The Yorkshire Party joins, amongst others, the Green Party, the Independent Group for Change and the UK’s advertising trade body ISBA, in supporting the campaign. The group has called for the other main parties to support the Coalition and its recommendations.

The Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising is a volunteer-run, politically-neutral project, which was founded in May 2018. Its recommendations are summarised in a four-point plan, which promotes transparency and accuracy in political campaigning:

  1. Legislate so that all paid-for political adverts can be viewed by the public
  2. Give an existing body the power to regulate political advertising content or create a new one to do so
  3. Require all objective factual claims used in political adverts to be substantiated
  4. Compulsory imprints or watermarks to show the origin of online adverts

Chris Whitwood, Leader of the Yorkshire Party, said:

“This is turning out to be the disinformation election. It has certainly provided all the evidence we need to demonstrate the urgency in updating the out of date the rules for political advertising. We fully support the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising’s 4 point plan for reform.”

Alex Tait, co-founder of the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising, added:

“We are delighted the Yorkshire Party are showing strong leadership on this issue and supporting the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising’s campaign. It is amazing that despite all the media coverage and various inquiries since the last election and Brexit referendum there have been no changes of significance to the rules in this area. We now need the other parties to join the call for change including rules around misleading claims in ads.”

 

 

The Women’s Equality Party announces support for the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising

Women's Equality Party logo

We are delighted that the Women’s Equality Party has today announced that it supports our campaign to modernise the outdated rules around political advertising.

In support of the campaign Mandu Reid, the Interim Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, stated:

“The Women’s Equality Party is committed to using technology for good, but while our analogue laws drift further from people’s digital realities, there is too much potential for technology being used to spread disinformation to manipulate people in ever more targeted ways. We therefore support the aims of Coalition for Reform’s campaign.
Parliament must put aside political motivations for unfettered digital advertising campaigns, and grapple with legislation to regulate the content of online advertising and the ways it is targeted to people. Otherwise it risks the electorate’s already low trust in politics being further eroded.”

Alex Tait, Co-founder of the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising commented:

“We are absolutely delighted to have the support of the Women’s Equality Party. Is there any reason why any political party won’t support what we are advocating as part of their election campaign? Even the Chair and CEO of the Advertising Association said earlier this week in a Lord’s committee there should be rules to stop lies in political advertising. With the current toxic environment we have around politics the modernisation of the rules around political ads has never been more urgent.”

The Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising interviewed on Sky News about Twitter’s plan to stop political advertising globally

Political advertising can’t go on in the way it was executed in the 2019 UK election. If you like the work we’ve been doing over the election please consider donating to our campaign here. We rely on donations to continue our work.


 

Our Co-founder, Alex Tait, was interviewed on Sky News today about Twitter’s plans to stop political advertising globally. Watch the interview here.

The Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising’s campaign pledge for responsible election campaigning

General-election-2019

Our campaign currently has the support of The Green Party, Independent Group for Change, The Renew Party and Volt UK so far. We are a politically neutral organisation and we are approaching all political parties to sign up to our campaign pledge for the UK general election.

Trust in politics and political advertising is certainly at a low. It is hard to believe but amazingly since the 2015 election and referendum there have been no changes of significance in the rules around political advertising. In the absence of this our campaign pledge is looking to establish greater transparency and accuracy in how political parties run their campaigns in the general election.

It is based on our 4-point plan for political ad reform.  We put our plan together as points we felt would be hard to argue against, so easiest to gain consensus around while also having the biggest impact. There are obviously various other areas that should be carefully considered as required by law (for example, spending limits and controls that have been looked at by the Electoral Commission). Also ensuring your campaign is compliant with GDPR.

We propose the pledge adopted should be simply:

We the <name of party> will practice responsible election campaigning and pledge to:

  1. Always include in our digital advertising information so that voters can identify the ad as ours.
  2. Publish our digital paid-for advertising content on a publicly available webpage.
  3. Share the substantiation of any objective factual claims used in ads on a publicly available webpage or on the ad itself.
  4. Revise or suspend any claims that that our nominated independent fact checking services find to be misleading.

1. Always include in our digital advertising information so that voters can identify the ad as ours.

Imprints / watermarks on all digital ads should be as per the Electoral Commission’s suggestion that “all electronic campaigning should have easily-accessible digital imprint requirements, including information on the publishing organisation and who is legally responsible for the spending”.

2. Publish our paid-for digital advertising content on a publicly available webpage.*

  • who is paying for the ads
  • which organisations are sponsoring the ads
  • the audience targeted by the ads. 

The above criteria are recommended by the DCMS Disinformation & “Fake News” report and are to ensure transparency of campaign messaging and to avoid “dark ads”. We believe that this would be a temporary measure until the “publicly accessible searchable repository [for political ads] run independently of political parties and the ad industry”, recommended in the report, is available.*

3. Share the substantiation of any objective factual claims used in ads on a publicly available webpage or on the ad itself.

Substantiate objective factual claims. This substantiation could be included in the ad itself or published independently and publicly together with any digital ads being used in the campaign.

4. Revise or suspend any claims that a nominated independent fact checking service find to be misleading.

All non-political ads which appear on TV or VOD and make factual claims are already, in ad terminology, “pre -cleared” by an organisation called Clearcast. This is an advisory service for advertisers which they can choose to ignore. However, the  Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules on complaints which are submitted to it, and will take into account Clearcast advice in any ruling.

In the absence of a code or a regulator for political ads we suggest using common sense in weighing the accuracy of your substantiation. You should, however, publish the source of the substantiation in the ad itself or on the same webpage as your digital ads. If one of our nominated fact checking services find the objective factual claims to be misleading the advertiser should take on board that feedback and consider revising or suspending adverts containing those claims. This is a “proxy” for the role a regulator would / should play when legislation is brought up to date.

Our nominated fact checking services are Full Fact, Channel 4 FactCheck and BBC Reality Check.

If your party would like to discuss the pledge with us please contact Alex at alex.tait@reformpoliticaladvertising.org.

Please follow us on Twitter @clearpolitic5 and sign up to support our campaign here.

October, 2019.