Modern politics makes Facebook’s huge influence obvious
Last week, Facebook disclosed that it had discovered an operation connected to Russia that bought around $100,000 worth of advertising on its network during the 2016 U.S. electoral cycle. $100,000 might not be much in the world of political marketing spend – but concerned parties think that it goes further on Facebook than it could on other platforms. Democratic Senator Mark Warner said that the reach and sophistication of Facebook’s network could have put adverts in front of tens of million of voters, and that it “becomes a method of influence exponentially, I would argue, bigger than TV and radio.”
Facebook’s share price has risen by 48% year to date
SOURCE: Yahoo Finance
Facebook, of course, has broken no laws – whatever the reality behind the Russia-backed advertising turns out to be. Social media companies are not regulated like broadcasters when it comes to campaign advertising – Bloomberg describes them as being “largely free from scrutiny of any kind”. Possibly, that should change. But this is in the hands of congress, not Facebook itself.
Facebook was also influential in the UK general election earlier this year, when left wing populist Jeremy Corbyn led the Labour Party to a better showing than many expected. While Prime minister Theresa May nonetheless triumphed, it was by a thinner margin than expected, which left her government relatively ineffectual. Corbyn’s success has been attributed to the hordes of organized young people – “Momentum” – that championed his leadership on Facebook, and through other digital platforms.
Whatever our individual views on Trump, Clinton, Corbyn, May, and international politics, the fact that social media is now a huge part of it is incontestable. It seems pretty obvious, too, that no platform – however unwittingly – should have so much unregulated sway over democratic processes. However, no matter how it is regulated in the future, the very fact that this has happened proves something that many in the digital space have been saying for years: social media might just be the most effective marketing tool on the planet.
Dominion holds Facebook in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.
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