What is Who Targets Me?
Who Targets Me (WTM) is a citizen-led, non-partisan software tool that monitors the targeted political ads people see on Facebook.
The WTM browser plug-in collects data on the political ads that people see on Facebook, which can then be analysed to explain the strategies parties and campaigns are using to win votes.
Why is Who Targets Me important?
Political campaigns invest heavily in digital adverts, and ad targeting on social media is becoming increasingly personalised and specific. The risks this poses to democratic debate are serious. WTM helps researchers, campaigners and journalists understand the use of targeted social media advertising by political actors and push for greater transparency.
Political ads generally disappear as soon as you leave social media platforms, which makes it difficult to know how campaigns are advertising or hold them accountable. Although recent attempts to enhance transparency, such as Facebook’s ad library, are a step in the right direction, they are not yet sufficiently detailed or transparent about how ads are targeted or who pays for them. WTM is the first plug-in that makes it possible for individuals to record the ads they see on Facebook. By building a data-set of adverts seen on Facebook by voters across different demographics and geographies, WTM can build an evidence-based picture of what’s really going on.
How does Who Targets Me work?
WTM is a browser extension for Google Chrome or Firefox (desktop-only). Once you set it up, you can visit Facebook as normal. Whilst you’re there, the software will collect the political adverts you see and add them to the WTM database. It will also provide you with a personalised breakdown with information about what adverts you were served and why you were targeted in particular ways.
How do I download Who Targets Me?
If you no longer wish to participate in the WTM project, you can remove the browser extension.
Is ORG asking me to join Facebook?
No - We are not asking you to join Facebook if you do not already have it. It wouldn’t be helpful to the data-gathering for you to join Facebook specifically to use WTM as you would not have expressed enough preferences through activity on the platform to enable political parties to target ads to you. You can still help by telling people you know who use Facebook about WTM.
Does Who Targets Me store any of my personal data?
No - WTM doesn’t store any personal data.
You do need to fill out some basic information (age, gender, location, political leaning) when you set WTM up, in order for the data collected through your browser to be analysed effectively. However, no information that WTM obtains as a result of your engagement with the software plug-in can identify you individually.
ORG will also use the WTM data in our research and campaigns. Your data will be protected in this process and you will not be able to be individually identified by ORG or others at any stage.
Why is ORG promoting Who Targets Me?
The European elections provide a significant opportunity for WTM to monitor online political advertising and gather a large amount of data in a short amount of time. Since the UK will now be participating in these elections, ORG has agreed with the WTM project team that we will support the data-gathering by encouraging our membership and wider supporter network to download the plug-in.
ORG will also use the UK data that WTM gathers during the elections in our new Data and Democracy project. We will analyse the data to better understand the categories on which people are micro-targeted and to see if any of the claims in the different ads conflict or contrast with each other.
Sounds great! How can I get involved?
You can download the WTM plug-in! We need as many people as possible to take this action in order to obtain good data. More ads will give our analysis greater validity and weight.
To get involved, all you need is to have a Facebook profile.
I’m in! When do I need to take action by?
As soon as possible. The European Elections will take place in the UK on Thursday 23 May. To get a wide enough data sample to analyse, WTM needs to start collecting data a minimum of one week before this date. So time is of the essence!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Who Targets Me project and what ORG will be doing with the data, come to our campaigns workshop on Tuesday 21 May at Newspeak House, 133 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 7DG.