Social Media Is Fragmenting And Muddying Elections

Social Media Is Fragmenting And Muddying Elections

Mass distribution of roses on the street is not an option for the PvdA this year. There is also no walk with Geert Wilders, Jesse Klaver cannot address his audience in concert halls and there are also no meetings for the Forum for Democracy. This year there will be a lot of focus on advertisements and messages via social media channels. If you are interested, visit https://www.hugoandsons.co.uk/.

Microtargeting and online campaigning

On social media, everyone leaves information such as age, education, and the area where you live. In addition, platforms such as Google and Facebook have trackers with which they record your online behavior. Political parties buy this data from Facebook in order to be able to target targeted advertising. For example, if you liked something by Jesse Klaver, then other parties can more easily reach a potential GroenLinks voter.

‘Online campaigning certainly plays a role, but just as much as any other way to convince voters’

To increase transparency about online campaigns, the UvA has developed an election observatory. This dashboard shows how many advertisements a political party has purchased on which platform and how much money has been spent on them. Professor of political communication & journalism Claes de Vreese is part of the research team that created the dashboard. ‘I think it is important that citizens are aware of microtargeting and the use of online platforms by political parties. Before we came up with this dashboard, you could not find an overview anywhere. This is very confusing and puts pressure on shared public space. That is why it is extra important that there is transparency. This will improve the debate on this topic,’

Not a deciding factor

A cautious conclusion can already be drawn from this dashboard. Wopke Hoekstra’s CDA has so far spent much more on Facebook and Instagram ads than other parties. Since September 1, the party has already spent more than 200,000 euros on advertisements. The Forum for Democracy also makes extensive use of Facebook advertisements. With 330, she has the most unique ads on Facebook. To count the number of unique ads, the scientists of this dashboard grouped ads that have the same text and ad link. They see this as one unique ad.

Followers abroad

It remains to be seen whether the parties that spend a lot of time and money on advertising will also get more votes. According to Kruikemeier, we do not yet know whether parties will actually win votes with these advertisements. ‘My expectation is that social media will have a small positive effect, but we don’t know how big yet. For example, you see that Geert Wilders has a lot of followers on Twitter, but these are also followers from other countries. So many followers do not have to be an indicator for many votes.

Netherlands and filter bubbles

When it comes to campaigning online, there is a danger lurking, namely filter bubbles. Are all advertisements visible to everyone? And aren’t you being pushed into a certain online corner by algorithms? Political communication & journalism teacher Judith Möller has done a lot of research into filter bubbles in the Netherlands. “We all know the stories of filter bubbles during the US elections, where there were actually two camps,” she says. It is in fact very difficult to divide the Dutch population into two camps, as in America.

Closed platforms and a brighter social media environment

Professor of Media & Culture Richard Rogers came across these closed platforms during an investigation. Rogers is concerned about this, because unrestrained and uncontrolled reporting about, for example, conspiracy theories can lead to the undermining of the rule of law and the democratic legal principles on which our society is based. He also concludes that an increasingly radical and fierce social media environment has emerged with many extreme sources such as Fennix.org. This fierce tone in the media landscape could eventually even influence public debate, according to Rogers.

Fragmentation

‘People are no longer in their social environment these days. It is therefore a lot more difficult to start a conversation with people who think differently about things. This makes us understand each other less well. Social media makes elections more fragmented and messy.’ This fragmentation can be both positive and dangerous. For example, according to Möller, it can be dangerous if small groups isolate themselves further and further from society. ‘If you end up in a group, for example on Facebook, where other people are also angry, you only start to rile each other up.

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