Political parties and their MPs candidates have spent at least $113,000 on Facebook adverts during the Albanian election campaign so far.
The advertising data library on political and social themes published by Facebook over the last 30 days, shows that 2573 political adverts have been promoted on their network between 11 March and 10 April 2021.
BIRN analyzed Facebook data and revealed that out of the $123,152 reported by Facebook, some $113,252 came from political parties, and MP candidates, with the rest coming from the media and other companies.
Socialist Party ( PS) leads the way in terms of the biggest spend on Facebook advertising.
PS has published 394 ads with a total value of $21,907, followed by the Democratic Party (PD) with 81 ads, a total value of $11,536.
PD MP candidate Agron Shehaj spent $10,118 on 133 political advertisements.
Five pages are supporting PS (Untold Stories of Albania, Punë Punë, Pakëz Dritë, Ligj the Rend dhe Të jesh grua) which campaign against the PD. These Facebook pages have spent $19,452 on 341 ads as of April 10.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Rama Social Club page has published ads against PS but according to the report, its expenses have been minimal until April 10.
The largest expenditures were made in cities such as Tirana and Elbasan.
According to the report, 90 of the identified political advertisements were published without the name of the entity or person paying them.
From March 25, Facebook requires every account that makes social or political ads from Albania to include the name of the person who pays the ad.
To increase the transparency of advertisements and the integrity of the elections on Facebook the data must come from authorized advertisers and include “Paid for by” disclaimers.
Earlier this week, information emerged from a whistleblower who previously worked at Facebook. She detailed multiple instances of Facebook failing to take action on fake accounts, including one supporting a political leader in Albania.
Sophie Zhang published a 6600-word memo in which she said there were multiple heads of governments and political parties using Facebook to sway public opinion and influence outcomes.
“I’ve found multiple, blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse the platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions. I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents, without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally, that I’ve lost count.”
In 2014, it was also revealed that Facebook had been working with Cambridge Analytica to provide them with voter data. This data was then used, without the permission of the individual, to create voter profiles and to aim to sway elections in favor of political parties that engaged with CA. It’s believed that CA worked with as many as 200 political parties across the world to influence the outcome of general elections.