ONE OUT OF FIVE PAID POLITICAL ADS ON FACEBOOK TARGETED A SPECIFIC GROUP OF PEOPLE

Published November 20, 2020

Political parties and their campaign leaders showed at least 532 different paid advertisements on Facebook during the last month of the political campaign. One out of five paid advertisements was a targeted political ad, i.e. targeted at a specific group of people. Parties’ leaders posted twice as many marked posts in public Facebook profiles as in the private ones, shows Transparency International Lithuania’s (TI Lithuania) analysis of the Facebook accounts of the five top-ranked parties and their campaign leaders, according to poll results available at the end of August – beginning of September.

From September 11 to October 10 TI Lithuania assessed publicly available entries and expenses on Facebook of these parties and their campaign leaders published in the Facebook ad library and its report, and electoral candidates’ public and private Facebook profiles (20 in total). 

Political parties marked the majority (279 out of 298) of posts in their Facebook profiles as political advertising, campaign leaders – two thirds (79 out of 119). Vigilijus Jukna (Labour Party (DP)) was the most active in labeling his posts in his public profile – 20 out of 21 posts were marked as political advertising, Saulius Skvernelis (Lithuania Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS)) was the least active, marking 2 posts out of 9. Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen (Liberal Movement (LRLS)) marked 23 records out of 27, Ingrida Šimonytė (The Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD)) – 11 out of 14, Gintautas Paluckas (Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (LSDP)) – 2 out of 4. The parties and their leaders posted a total of 417 entries.

According to the data published in the Facebook ad library, parties‘ and their leaders‘ advertisements were shown at least 3245 times, and at least 55 thousand Euros were spent on them. The Labour Party (DP) spent the most on their advertisements – about 17 thousand Euros for 100 advertisements, the least – Lithuania Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS), about 7 thousand Euros, they also had the lowest number of advertisements (32). The Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (LSDP) published the most advertisements (159), spending about 9 thousand Euros on them. The Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) published 102 advertisements and spent about 12.6 thousand Euros on them, The Liberal Movement (LRLS) paid about 7.2 thousand Euros for 91 advertisements.

The price of one advertisement per day could vary up to 8 times for different parties and almost 20 times for party leaders. LVŽS paid the most for one such advertisement – 69.4 Euros, the least – LRLS – 8.4 Euros. Among the party leaders, Saulius Skvernelis (LVŽS) spent the most on one advertisement per day – 133.3 Euros, the least – Gintautas Paluckas (LSDP), 6.8 Euros. Based on TI Lithuania calculations, on average, at least 108 political advertisements were shown per day.

“At the moment, we do not see the real scale of political advertising, and political targeting can become a powerful tool for manipulating public opinion, as the examples in the US or the UK show. Political campaigning is increasingly moving online, thus, we need to apply new transparency measures to elections. It is very important to disclose more detailed financial statements for political advertising on social networks, reconsider what political ad is and where it can be published, and to strengthen the capacity of the Central Electoral Commission to ensure successful monitoring of elections”, said Sergejus Muravjovas, the CEO of Transparency International Lithuania.

The Labour Party had the largest number of political ads that were targeted to a certain group of the society (90 percent and more) – almost half of their paid ads were also targeted ads (45 out of 100). Also, 4 out of 10 TS-LKD (40 out of 102), 1 out of 10 LRLS (12 out of 91) ads were targeted. LSDP published 9 such advertisements out of 159, LVŽS – 2 out of 32.

The parties and their leaders in their campaigns targeted women more than men. On average, 14 per cent more political advertisements were targeted at them. All parties, except LVŽS, targeted Vilnius County the most. The latter prioritized the voters of Kaunas county.

The parties and their leaders also targeted different age groups with their Facebook ads. TS-LKD and their leader Ingrida Šimonytė tried to aim their messages at the youngest voters aged between 18 to 24 years old. LSDP also tried to reach younger voters (25-34 years old). LVŽS, DP, LRLS and LSDP leader Gintautas Paluckas targeted older voters, aged between 55 to 64 years old. Vigilijus Jukna (DP) and Saulius Skvernelis (LVŽS) focused on 45-54 years old voters. During the study period, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen (LRLS) had two public profiles, from which she tried to reach voters of different age groups (25-35 years old with one profile and 35-44 years old with the other).

This analysis was prepared in collaboration with colleagues from the Transparency International Secretariat and draws on the methodology prepared by colleagues at Transparency International Czech Republic. 

A short summary of the findings can be found here, the study – here (Executive summary in English).

More information: Sergejus Muravjovas, sergejus@transparency.lt, +370 5 212 69 51

The initiative is co-financed by the European Union.