Tech Election - Part 2

We talk about the impact of different online platforms on the general election campaign, from Twitter and Facebook to WhatsApp and TikTok. Is micro-targeting getting more sophisticated? Is viral messaging getting more important? Or are traditional electioneering techniques still driving voter engagement? Plus we ask whether there's any scope left for a 'December surprise'. With Charles Arthur, former technology editor of the Guardian, and Jennifer Cobbe, from the Cambridge Trust and Technology Initiative.

Talking Points: 

In 2017, Labour ran an incredibly successful social media campaign that the mainstream media outlets missed. Is 2017 repeating itself? 

  • Facebook has gotten more transparent about the ads they are running. 
  • There doesn’t seem to be a big Labour project, at least on Facebook. The Lib Dems on the other hand have a huge operation. 
  • Labour has at least a few ads that seem extremely well calibrated.
  • Are we more resistant to political messaging on social media now? 

This election isn’t a binary choice. There are few single messages that you can push. (The NHS may be the exception.)   

  • But at the end of the day, the electoral system tends to force a binary choice. Is it old politics or new technology? 
  • The messages are relatively old school. Time spent on doorsteps may still be more valuable than a Facebook ad. 
  • But in other ways, things have changed. It’s much easier to publicly screw up. And when new candidates come onto the scene, the first thing people do is scroll through their social media history.
  • Do we overblow the consequences of a single screw up?

What is political messaging trying to achieve?

  • Persuasion is incredibly difficult. Turnout will be key. 
  • Labour will need to get out the vote. There’s certainly been a big voter registration push on social media. 
  • Younger voters are online, but not on Facebook. YouTube, for example, is more important. The Tories don’t seem to have caught on to this. 
  • In an information economy, are people more likely to switch on right before an election, or switch off?

Mentioned in this episode: 

Further Learning: 

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here:


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