How much did your MP spend on Facebook advertising?

Facebook. Shutterstock image.
Facebook. Shutterstock image.

An investigation into political advertising on Facebook has revealed how much Sussex MPs spent on sponsored social or political posts.

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook began requiring all sponsored posts on political issues to include a disclaimer stating who paid for the advertisement.

The JPIMedia Data team looked at spend on adverts dating from October 2018, when the transparency rules came into force.

Top of the list is Amber Rudd, who spent £1,000 on 265 adverts up to September 7.

The Hastings MP was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions during the same period.

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd followed with advertising worth at least £642 for 50 posts, with a single advert alongside the Eastbourne Liberal Democrats.

Worthing MP Tim Loughton had had nine sponsored posts costing a total of £191.

Gillian Keegan, MP for Chichester, had spent £113 on 11 adverts, while Horsham MP Jeremy Quin had spent less than £100, and MP for Brighton and Kempton Lloyd Russell-Moyle had spent £105.

Both Stephen Lloyd and Gillian Keegan fell foul of the disclaimer rule, with some early posts refused by Facebook for not including a sponsor name.

Gillian Keegan’s office has clarified the single instance occured during the verification process.

Mr Lloyd said the instances for his account, all in late 2018, were to do with his office learning the new rules implemented by Facebook, ‘which they’re now on top of’.

He added: “My spending on Facebook, 99 per cent of the time, has been around boosting posts rather than political ads.

“In other words, overwhelmingly promoting Eastbourne concerns such as new businesses, charities and local events. To me – it’s all about the fantastic community spirit we have across our town.”

A government spokesperson said there should be ‘greater transparency’ in political advertising.

“We have already pledged to introduce the requirement for digital election material to be clearly branded.

“We will bring forward technical proposals by the end of the year.”

Political groups

Several groups were also flagged as political, including four posts by Hastings Foodbank.

Posts costing less than £100 are recorded but not specified, so that exact amounts spent are estimates only.

In Chichester, the Liberal Democrats were the only political party to invest in Facebook ads, with councillors and the local party spending around £600.

By contrast, the Eastbourne Conservative Association was the biggest spender in Eastbourne at least £145.

Brighton had had 75 political adverts from a range of parties, but there had only been a handful of political adverts across Horsham and Mid Sussex.

The Open Rights Group, which campaigns for internet users’ digital rights, said social media has become a ‘key battleground for political campaigns’.

Its data and democracy officer, Pascal Crowe, said the ‘rules that shape our elections are ripe for reform’.

“For example, it is currently too easy to field a political advert on Facebook without revealing who is paying for that ad,” he said.

“It is now perhaps easier than ever to game the system and avoid being held to account.”

A spokesperson for Facebook said: “Our industry-leading tools are making it easier to see all political ads on our platforms, and archives them for seven years in Facebook’s Ad Library.

“People are able to report concerns to us or regulators as appropriate.”