Politicians like to say that elections are won on doorsteps. But most of them now spend almost as much time on their Facebook pages and Whatsapp groups.
But who is policing Facebook and messaging groups for misinformation, planted false stories and algorithm-gaming?
It’s not the BAI. It’s not the telecoms regulator, Comreg. And it’s not the Irish Press Council or Press Ombudsman. Unlike broadcasting or print, there is no official policing for fairness, accuracy or balance.
Invariably, it comes back to the companies themselves.
This week, Adrian is joined by Damien Mulley, founder of Mulley Communications, to look under the hood of how targeting works on social media during an election campaign. Mulley talks about an experiment he ran where he was able to target a handful of influential TDs and their political advisers for a couple of euro using Facebook’s ad system.
And the two discuss the darker side of the political system and what it can throw up by way of trying to skew political debate online.
Techniques have moved beyond the creation of outright false headlines claiming that a particular candidate has been endorsed by the Pope.
Modern methods can be subtle and sophisticated, playing off algorithms. This includes getting dozens, or hundreds, of people to swarm online, all leaving comments under a news article or candidate post. Or to search repeatedly for a candidate’s name in an attempt to skew the search engine’s algorithm.