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Labour duped own leader with targeted Facebook ads, new book claims


By Katie Deighton, Senior Reporter

July 15, 2018 | 3 min read

Labour campaign officials used microtargeting on Facebook to lead Jeremy Corbyn and his in-party supporters into thinking a digital ad campaign was running nationwide, a new book from Ed Miliband’s director of communications claims.


"They thought the ads must be there for everyone"

Tom Baldwin’s Ctrl Alt Delete: How Politics and the Media Crashed Our Democracy contends campaigners inside the Labour camp spent cash running a Facebook campaign that would only have been seen by a handful of people, namely Corbyn, his closest aides and supporters in the media.

In reality, no-one else in the country was exposed to the ads. The strategy was concocted by officials unhappy with Corbyn’s requests to use Facebook spend on “pet projects”, according to Baldwin.

He quoted a Labour campaigner saying: “They wanted us to spend a fortune on some schemes like the one they had to encourage voter registration, but we only had to spend about £5,000 to make sure Jeremy’s people, some journalists and bloggers saw it was there on Facebook.

“And if it was there for them, they thought it must be there for everyone. It wasn’t. That’s how targeted ads can work.”

Speaking to The Times, Baldwin said he believes examples such as this make the case for banning political, paid-fot ads from social media. He told the paper: “When the leader of a political party can be tricked in such fashion by his own officials, voters themselves stand little chance.

“The answer is not more transparency and oversight but a complete ban on political advertising on the internet. Britain has a tradition ... that bars political attack ads appearing on TV. We cannot allow an even more insidious form of advertising to take over now.”

The topic of regulating political ads was one debated at The Drum Arms during Advertising Week Europe. Read the cases for and against here.

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