By: Malcom Chakery 8/26/16
If you are the type of American voter who prefers to not discuss politics with others, you may have been surprised by political content suddenly appearing in your Facebook feed.
If you are lucky, sponsored Facebook posts and ads that pop up when you check your social media updates will match your political preference; however, this has not been the case for many American voters who wonder why they are seeing content related to Donald Trump even though they are liberals.
It so happens that you as well as everyone else on Facebook have a political label, which can be conservative, liberal or moderate. This label is not prominently displayed on your profile or Timeline. If you would like to find out what Facebook thinks about your political ideology, visit this URL: facebook.com/ads/preferences; from here, look for a section marked as Interests. Navigate to Lifestyle & Culture and click to reveal the Politics choice, which will be displayed if you live in the U.S.
If you are not in agreement with how Facebook has labeled you, you can always click on the About tab and declare your political affiliation.
How Facebook Determines Your Political Ideology
If you did not set your own political preference, you may be wondering how Facebook reached its conclusion. The current mechanisms are not very sophisticated. If you like the Facebook pages of politicians who are known conservatives, you will be labeled as such.
Let’s say you have not actively clicked on the thumbs-up icon of Rush Limbaugh’s Facebook page; however, you visit his Timeline on a daily basis to stay up to date on his reports. This may also label you as a conservative.
There is an even more intriguing labeling mechanism used by Facebook: if you like certain brands, you may be labeled a certain way. For example, the Atlanta-based fast food chain Chick-fil-A is known to adhere to the Southern Baptist principles of its founder; if you follow them on Facebook to get coupons or learn about specials, you may be labeled a conservative. Likewise, if you follow Starbucks because you are a coffee connoisseur, you may be labeled a liberal.
Why is Facebook So Interested in Political Labels?
If you guessed that Facebook’s political labeling has to do with advertising, you are absolutely right. Partisanship is not as important to Facebook as advertising profit.
Facebook is in the business of collecting personal information for marketing and advertising purposes. Political affiliations are just one piece of you that Facebook uses to target ads and content that you may be interested in.
Let’s say you are a Web development professional who visits the Facebook Timelines of tech publications. Before you know it, your News Feed will be filled with interesting content about the future of HTML5, new browser standards, SQL topics, etc.
In the end, Facebook is working on ways to let you decide the sponsored content and ads that you will like to see. If you are a liberal U.S. voter who does not enjoy seeing Facebook content from Donald Trump, be sure to review your ad preferences.