Facebook states (without any irony, irony not really being the forte of giant corporate monoliths) that its policy on ‘controversial content’ in regard to politics is as follows.
“14. Controversial Content
Ads must not contain content that exploits controversial political or social issues for commercial purposes.”
So, presumably, those micro-targeted ads showing the infamous ‘lie on the bus’ about £350m a week being released for investment in the NHS if we left the European Union (and which would, were it included in a TV ad or a print ad, breach their governing codes of conduct, mainly because it’s blatantly untrue, as has been confirmed by various national watchdog organisations) gets by this policy because it’s not ‘for commercial purposes’. So Facebook is content to promote an untruth, as long as the lie isn’t directly making money. Facebook will, of course, make money from the ad. It doesn’t care about the veracity of the content.
We know that Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker MPs have major investments in businesses which stand to benefit if there is a Hard Brexit, as indeed will anyone who avoids paying UK tax at the same rates as everyone else ( because a Hard Brexit will, at least for a time, avoid implementation of the latest EU laws on fair governance and transparency in tax havens see Mrs Merton article below ). But this link seems to be too tenuous to prompt Facebook to refuse the advertising.
The Leave campaign backers were overwhelmingly the wealthy, many of whom would have funds in ‘off-shore’ tax havens, and who stand to gain if the UK leaves the EU, especially if we leave without a deal. Donor details can be found on the Electoral Commission’s web-site which lists them – some of whom were exposed by the leak of the ‘Panama’ and ‘Paradise’ papers showing lists of tax avoiders and evaders. It seems the old adage of ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’ doesn’t seem to apply to the funders of Facebook ads. The trail isn’t a long one and is in the public domain. But it wasn’t enough to prompt Facebook to refuse the ads. This too counts, presumably, as not ‘for commercial purposes’?
I found this policy statement embedded in an informative Facebook article entitled ‘Avoid creating negative experiences for people who see your ads’ ( see here ). Clearly this is aimed at helping advertisers avoid certain prohibitions and creating an aesthetically pleasing ad. I did, however, wonder how those unattributed, micro-targeted ads prompting people to ‘Click’ if they liked football/wanted to enter a football related competition and which thereby harvested the respondents personal data, got past these strictures ( for examples, see here ) . Maybe the rules have changed since this has all been exposed?
I also wondered how a stand-up comedian might respond to the article. Given that the ads were micro-targeted at specific people, can those recipients complain or seek compensation if they subsequently have a negative experience because of the ad.
‘I voted leave because I wanted £350m a week to be spent on the NHS not the EU, just like the ad said,’ says Mrs Joanna Bloggs of Todmorden. ‘But I can’t now get my dodgy hip replaced without paying for it, as the NHS has been sold off to private health care firms because the UK economy has gone down the tubes since we left the EU and we can’t afford a free NHS any more. Is Facebook going to compensate me for my negative experience?’
Okay, this is why I’m not a stand-up comedian. But there must be someone out there who could do so much better?