Revealed: How Vote Leave targeted Facebook users during Brexit referendum

Posted On: 
27th July 2018

Targeted Facebook adverts used by the official Vote Leave campaign to sway voters into backing Brexit have been revealed for the first time.

Immigration featured heavily in the targeted adverts
Credit: 
PA Images

The main anti-EU campaign group spent more than £2.7m on posts aimed at specific users of the social media site in its successful bid to win the 2016 referendum on EU membership.

Vote Leave used Canadian data firm Aggregate IQ to develop the ads and send them out to the millions of users who would be most susceptible to their messaging.

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Facebook data released alongside the ads show older voters were more often sent messages about how much cash the UK sends to the EU every year - including the controversial claim about Brexit freeing up £350m a week extra for the NHS.

Younger voters were more likely to get adverts about animal welfare or streaming services and jobs.

Many of them do not contain any details about who created and sent them. Political parties do not have to include such details in online advertising by law, but they do for posted leaflets.

Some of the ads were to promote a competition to win £50m by correctly predicting every score in the 2016 European football championships - which was in fact a data-gathering excersise staged by Vote Leave so it could reach non-voters.

Targeted ads sent out by BeLeave - which alongside Vote Leave was fined by the Electoral Commission after the groups shared cash then worked together to spend it - have also been revealed.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist Party spent almost £33,000 with AIQ sending 16 ads around its home country of Northern Ireland and the remaining 24 were seen mainly around England.

The ads were released by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which is investigating the campaigns as part of its inquiry into fake news.