SNP defends £93,000 spend on Facebook to target votes

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The SNP has insisted there was “nothing untoward” in payments of more than £90,000 to Facebook in recent years to target Scottish voters.

It comes despite the party demanding tougher regulation for the social media giant amid concern over the way users’ data is used.

SNP chief executive Peter Murrell pointed out that his party's spending last year of �43,345 on Facebook compares with more than �2 million by the Tories and �577,000 by Labour.

SNP chief executive Peter Murrell pointed out that his party's spending last year of �43,345 on Facebook compares with more than �2 million by the Tories and �577,000 by Labour.

The Facebook row has also raised fresh questions over the SNP’s Activate database of Scottish voters, which has been at the heart of the party’s success in recent years.

Along with all UK parties, the Nationalists paid for advertising slots with the social media giant which has been embroiled in a damaging privacy row after the data of millions of customers was obtained illegally by private firm Cambridge Analytica.

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The SNP paid £93,250 over the past three and a half years. This includes one payment from June 2017 of £483.93, for “48,267” impressions made on the pages of Labour voters and “33,162” impressions made on the Tories.

The party’s Head of Digital Ross Colquhoun insisted that the party takes a “responsible approach” to using personal information shared voluntarily by supporters.

“Like all political parties, during campaigns the SNP creates tailored targeted adverts to reach those outside of our organic reach on various websites and social media platforms,” he wrote in an article for Scotland on Sunday.

“Buying advertising space like this means our messages can be seen by those that are not following our supporters and the content they share. Nothing untoward here, it’s just like the adverts we see in newspapers or television. What Cambridge Analytica are alleged to have got up to is a million miles away from this.”

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The SNP also paid for Labour and Lib Dem voters to be targeted on Instagram, which was bought by Facebook for £700 million in 2012.

The party has also used people’s personal data to aim adverts at different age groups or people living in target constituencies.

SNP chief executive Peter Murrell pointed out that his party’s spending last year of £43,345 on Facebook compares with more than £2 million by the Tories and £577,000 by Labour.

The party was also among the first in the world to use Nationbuilder software which allows it to mine social media for information to add to its Activate database, such as photos, email addresses and locations.

Targeting people with opposing views such as supporters of other parties was criticised by information commissioner Elizabeth Denham in letters to all parties last year.

“The complaints we have received reveal that individuals find unwanted contact from political parties in particular to be extremely annoying,” she wrote.