So-called ‘dark adverts’ on Facebook are personalised political adverts which only you can see – and which some have blamed for Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump.
The adverts are tweaked according to psychological profiles of each individual user, and appear in user’s News Feeds – and could be used, for instance, to persuade certain voters to stay at home.
What’s certain is that political parties are spending millions on Facebook adverts tweaked by location, age, gender, and user’s personal interests – and they’re expected to be deployed en masse in the last 10 days of Britain’s General Election.
A new British group ‘Who Targets Me’ is attempting to monitor these adverts using a Chrome browser extension which looks for targeted adverts delivered via Facebook.
Who Targets Me? Co-founder Louis Knight-Webb, 19 told Metro.co.uk that the group already has 4,000 volunteers – and that such adverts are different from normal political advertising.
Knight-Webb says, ‘You can’t see what adverts I’m seeing – I can’t see what you’re seeing. There is no way government bodies can audit these kinds of adverts.
‘We don’t even know if parties are doing anything scandalous. Who Targets Me is a citizen-led inititiative to begin to create data on this subject.’
Recent reports have linked data companies such as Cambridge Analytica to multi-million Facebook advertising campaigns used by Donald Trump and the Leave campaign.
Knight-Webb says, ‘The adverts use Facebook data to psychometrically profile voters – so each voter might see an advert which is psychometrically tweaked specifically for them, right down to the language used.’
To help Who Targets Me, users install a Chrome extension, and fill out a short form with their postcode – and then the extension monitors for targeted ads.
At present, 55% of the ads detected by the extension are from Labour in the UK – but that could mean the Conservatives are ‘saving up’ for a last-minute splurge, Knight-Webb says.
Knight-Webb says, ‘They’re all playing by the rules, it is early days. There was a little flurry around the local election.
‘At present, 55% of all adverts from the Labour party – and we do have quite a good spread of voters from our 4,000 volunteers. My hunch is that the Conservatives will spend more in the last 10 days of the election.’
Metro.co.uk has reached out to Facebook for comment.
To use the browser extension, visit https://whotargets.me/ and follow the instructions.