Flemish political parties spend big on Facebook

Flemish political parties spend big on Facebook

In the current electoral campaign, Flemish political groups have together spent over €200,000 on Facebook advertisements, and far-right Vlaams Belang (VB) has outspent all of its political rivals.

Code analytics firm insight.io combed through data provided by the social network and found that, between mid-March and mid-May, Flemish political parties had spent a combined €230, 000 on Facebook advertisements.

The data only provided information about the ads that had been bought on the platform by either the group as a whole entity or by any political party’s president.

Ad-spending incurred by individual candidates, or party members was not taken into account, prompting business daily l’Echo to suggest that total spending figures may be higher.

Belgian voting regulations do not require parties to unveil their electoral spending until after election day.

According to the figures, the Vlaams Belang are the biggest spenders, having spent no less than €149,800 on Facebook ads.

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The Vlaams Belang —a rebrand of the nationalist Vlaams Block group which was ordered to disband on accusations of racism— has led an active campaign, appealing to young voters and Francophone Belgians to overtake rivalling Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA), who overwhelmingly outperformed them in last year’s municipal elections.

Facebook’s move to publicise spending figures by political groups stems from an effort to increase political transparency on the platform after it became known that partisan groups were using the social network to spread misinformation in an attempt sway the results of significant votes.

The results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election was found to be largely influenced by the social network’s decision to collect user data without their consent in order to sell it to political analytics and profiling firms.

Similarly, the decision by anti-EU groups in Britain to knowingly spread misinformation on the platform during the Brexit was found to have played a significant role in the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union.

The data showed that the political party to have so far spent the least on Facebook ads was the Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams, and that the PVDA Dutch-speaking labour party had bought no ads on the platform.

On May 26, Belgians will head to the polls to vote on federal, regional and European Parliament elections.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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