Social media giant, Facebook, labels its users as liberal, conservative, or moderate. You may ask yourself why they’re doing this. It’s because they plan to let you view ads that match how you politically define yourself. These ads will appear on your newsfeed.
This information was released last year when Facebook introduced a tool intended to give users control over which ads they would see. In the website, there’s a page that will let users list their ad preferences. In the page's drop-down menu, an indiscreet box is labeled "US Politics." If you check your Facebook account now, your political view is enclosed in parentheses. New York Times was the first one to report this.
Lots of questions circulate as to how political biases and views are reinforced by Twitter, Facebook, and all other social media giants. As for experts, they are not really sure whether the political preference tool of social media networks has increased partisan divides compared to traditional ad forms over the radio, mailboxes or television. Academics made a conclusion regarding this tool: campaign advertising has become more and more targeted across all media.
According to the University of Louisville’s political science professor, Jason Gainous, this tool in question is just a nuanced application of the exact things that issue-advocacy and candidate campaigns have been enforcing for years.
"As we progress in digital reality, ads just became more and more targeted. This is a fact, but what we are wondering about is whether we should be worried about this," said Gainous.
Almost every social media user knows that Facebook and other platforms collect information about their users in order to customize the advertisements they show to millions of their users. Facebook, in particular, uses television shows, music, and candidate profiles that a certain user likes, so they can effectively target the ads. What's more, the social media giant also uses a user's internet search history for its goal.
This ad preferences page that Facebook unveiled is actually good news for its users since they can now see which preferences they have according to the Facebook algorithms. Also, they are given the power to choose the ads that they wish to hide or see. Facebook has received a lot of praise since it gave its users control, but experts say that Facebook did this so they could fight ad blocking. Some people felt uncomfortable because Facebook's tool classifies their political preference.
As of now, it’s still unclear as to how aggressive Facebook is at gathering political information. This also applies to users who are not from the US. Facebook has 1.7 billion users and all of them are active. About 204 million of them are users from the United States.