A website known as mainstreamnetwork.co.uk has been using Facebook to spread a pro-Brexit, anti-Chequers political message in a bid to influence the politics of the UK, according to media sources.
This comes after Facebook promised to be more open about political advertising, following harsh criticism over adverts that were targeted in ways designed to influence public votes on membership of the EU and the 2017 general election.
The social media platform was – only this week – fined £500,000 for its role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. This is the maximum fine possible under data protection rules that were in force before GDPR took effect in May.
Nobody outside Facebook knows what information is being published on the website or where it comes from – and only Facebook will know which adverts and information have been directed at which Facebook users.
This means it is entirely possible that Facebook and its advertisers are not abiding by the laws that regulate the democratic process and restrict spending on campaigns and the content of adverts.
This is crucially important at a time when Facebook is said to be removing pages run by left-leaning media sources.
Facebook is erasing popular alternative media pages that had millions of likes and suspending anti-war and anti-police brutality accounts, in coordination with Twitter.
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) October 19, 2018
US commentator Lee Camp fills you in here:
“This is a full-frontal crushing of dissident sources,” he said.
“Facebook conspired with Twitter to shut down a large swathe of independent media on the same day.
“This is like a full-on fascist takeover of independent thought.”
Well, is it?
Let’s get back to mainstreamnetwork.co.uk – the site that is not only still permitted by Facebook but actually splashed a quarter of a million pounds worth of advertising all over it.
What kind of site does Facebook endorse in this way? Take a look:
We do not know who runs the site. We do not know whether it is based in the UK or overseas. We do not know who funds it. There is no name or address anywhere on the site.
A report by political research organisation 89Up, prepared for the DCMS Select Committee… tells us that it has paid to use Facebook, probably about £250,000 in the last year, to spread its views and to encourage its users with a pro-forma letter to email UK MPs from a custom built website.
We also know that it has retained users’ email addresses, possibly in breach of data protection regulations.
Facebook has made these activities possible and profits from them. But it accepts no responsibility for ensuring its users comply with the law.
All of this is happening now – after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and after Facebook made a number of announcements purporting to address the misuse of the platform for political purposes.
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