Check which politicians are targeting you on Facebook

Developers aim to analyse how political campaigns target social media

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A new project is being developed to help users discover which political campaigns are targeting them through social media during the 2017 general election.

Called Who Targets Me, the citizen-led non-partisan project is composed of a team of developers, researchers, journalists and lawyers who aim to analyse aggregated data to understand which demographics are being targeted, as well as what media and language is being used to influence people's votes.

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The software is a Chrome browser extension that extracts and analyses political adverts shown to social media users. This will help the team collect the data and then analyse it.

A combined 1.3 million was spent on targeted Facebook advertising by political parties in the run up to the 2015 general election, according to the developers. They say: "Nobody is completely sure of the scale campaigns are using big data and targeted advertising to affect our politics. Who Targets Me is recognising that we the people can use technology and big data to monitor the campaigns and defend the transparency of this democracy."

The project's ultimate aim is to foster a debate about the effects of targeted advertising in politics and then change the way the adverts are regulated. They hope many people will sign up, and are also looking for volunteers such as legal experts and Javascript developers to help the project.

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Yesterday Facebook denied that it had been researching the potential to target adverts at young users who may be feeling "overwhelmed [and] anxious". Facebook called the claims "misleading" and underlined how it has an established process to review the research it performs.

The Information Commissioner's Office is investigating whether people's data was misused in the EU referendum, looking into the alleged role of Cambridge Analytica apparent use of data in the US election and Britain's vote to leave the EU. It is also conducting a wider investigation into the data protection issues arising from personal data use.

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