RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Check your Facebook feed right now and you probably see political ads.
More than half a million dollars in online ads poured into Virginia’s 7th district Congressional race between Sept. 21 and Oct. 16 according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
On TV you can’t seem to get away from the commercials. There are ads every commercial break - sometimes more than one, but following you onto Facebook is a relatively new tactic.
“Ads are cleverly and carefully tailored to the audiences of people who are watching them," Stephen Engelberg, the Editor-in-Chief of ProPublica, said. “Depending on your political preferences, you get very different ads.”
We found multiple Spanberger ads, paid for by her campaign, targeting specific locations in central Virginia.
They are targeted pretty directly, such as “men 18 or older living in Glen Allen” or “anyone near Richmond.” Multiple ads paid for by Dave Brat’s campaign also targeting people who “live in or near Richmond.”
Spanberger’s campaign specifically wanted to reach people on Facebook who were “moderate” in their politics with the ad featuring her shooting a gun from her days in the CIA . The targeting is based on your activity on Facebook and other apps and websites.
Outside groups are buying Facebook ads not authorized by either campaign. AFP Action and FreedomWorks support Brat’s candidacy and were able to reach your Facebook feeds because “you’re on a customer list provided by partners of FreedomWorks” or “AFP Action” or you’ve provided them with your contact information off of Facebook.
An ad from Heritage Action for America, asking to show you just how money much Dave Brat has saved your family was specifically trying to reach people on Facebook who are “conservative” in their politics and living near “Midlothian."
Outside money is also buying up attack ads against Brat that not authorized by Spanberger’s campaign. Groups like “Keep Them Accountable” and “NARAL Pro Choice America” targeted you if you were on their customer list. An independent social media AD from “Progress Virginia” campaigned to save the Affordable Care Act if you ever shared a link to their website or watched a video from the group.
What you like on Facebook, websites you visit and videos you watch all play a role in how ads are targeted for you.
You can find out who is tracking youby visiting ProPublica’s Political Ad Collector and installing a plug-in. It only takes a few minutes and it allows you to quickly tag the ads in your Facebook feed as political or not. The plug-in only works on Chrome and Firefox browsers.