Facebook advertising in the 2017 United Kingdom general election: The uses and limits of user-generated data
Anstead, N., Magalhães, J.C., Stupart, R., & Tambini, D.
Despite a focus on Facebook advertising in recent elections around the world, little
research has empirically analysed the content of these adverts and how they are targeted. Working with the social enterprise Who Targets Me, 11,421 volunteers installed a browser plug-in on their computers during the 2017 UK General Election campaign. This allowed us to harvest 783 unique Facebook political adverts that collectively appeared 16,109 times in users’ timelines. Analysis of this dataset challenges some conventional wisdom About Facebook political advertising. Rather than evidence of segmentation, we find evidence that messages adhere closely to national campaign narratives. Additionally, Facebook advertising does not appear to be greatly more negative than other traditional modes of communication.
Finally, our analysis highlights some of the major challenges that need to be overcome to properly understand the role that Facebook plays in conventional political communication.