Facebook deletes SNP general election victory boast

Facebook has deleted a boast on its corporate site that it helped the SNP 'achieve an overwhelming victory' at the 2015 general election, when the party won 56 out of 59 constituencies in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon takes a selfie at a post-general election event in 2015, when her party returned 56 MPs. Picture: Alistair Pryde/JP Resell
Nicola Sturgeon takes a selfie at a post-general election event in 2015, when her party returned 56 MPs. Picture: Alistair Pryde/JP Resell

The social media giant previously listed the result as one of several political campaigns in which the online platform had made a positive difference, the Telegraph reported.

The page detailed how the Nationalists had turned the “disappointment of the No vote” in the 2014 independence referendum into an “opportunity” by capitalising on a “groundswell of support” and leaving the “remaining parties with only one seat apiece in Scotland” a year later.

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It added: “Campaigners across the political spectrum now recognise that using Facebook made a demonstrable difference to the election result.”

The California-based tech giant said it had helped the party reach 1.24 million Scots during the 2015 election campaign, with 416,485 people reached on election day itself.

Nicola Sturgeon’s party stunned even its own members with its 2015 success, which was by far its record result in a Westminster election. The SNP was reduced to 35 MPs at the subsequent general election in 2017.

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All major political parties routinely buy digital advertising from a variety of platforms, but Facebook has faced persistent criticism following the 2016 US presidential election that it does not do enough to curb so-called “fake news”.

Company founder Mark Zuckerberg was forced to defend Facebook against allegations of bias last year. “We hope to give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas,” Zuckerberg wrote in September following criticism from Donald Trump.

It was reported in December the platform had set-up a political unit, which one business news organisation claimed enabled “the dark art of digital propaganda”.

But Katie Harbath, a former Republican digital strategist who oversees the Facebook political team, defended the unit. “We’re proud to work with the thousands of elected officials around the world, who use Facebook as a way to communicate with constituents, interact with voters, and hear about issues important in their community,” she told Bloomberg. “We take our responsibility to prevent abuse of our platform extremely seriously.”

But some in the organisation have warned Facebook of not appearing too close to one particular party or cause.

Elizabeth Linder, a senior figure in the team until 2016, said: “It’s not Facebook’s job to be so close to any election campaign.”

The Telegraph reported that Facebook did not respond to a request for comment as to why it had deleted the pages.