Here’s how political campaigns target messages on Facebook

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Prepare for millions of dollars in political ads to be sent directly to you on Facebook, Google, and other online platforms. It’s a detailed and controversial process.

Twitter will no longer run political ads. Google announced it will no longer run many targeted ads – or political messages specifically designed for you.

Facebook is different. Its founder Mark Zuckerberg says restricting those ads is an infringement on free speech. Facebook also will not fact-check their ads, which critics worry will allow outright lies to sway voters. KXAN wanted to know more about this process and met with a local political firm to find out more.

Julia Moore is a digital strategist for Steinhauser Strategies, a public relations and political consulting firm. The company often works with conservative elected officials, non-profits, and businesses. If she has your Facebook-linked email, she can make a message just for you.

“You can send that ad directly to that person. It doesn’t have to be a page or a group on Facebook,” said Moore.

She can send client videos, posts, and profiles directly to you based on your city, zip-code, or the pages you follow.

So could theoretically run an ad to target people who like the Great Gatsby as a book?

“Most of the time, yes,” said Moore.

“You get the feedback instantaneously. So you can see when you post something from a candidate or a cause whether people like it or dislike it,” said co-founder of the company, Brendan Steinhauser. That information helps them hone their message.

With Facebook not fact-checking ads and bad actors on the platform, Steinhauser says the public has to live by the adage — don’t believe everything you see.

“You really have to think critically and be self-aware to challenge what you read and make sure you don’t take anything at face value,” Steinhauser said. “Take everything with a grain of salt and to be judicious. Weigh all the evidence and all the facts that are out there and come to your own conclusions.”

According to the Facebook ad-tracker the Bully Pulpit Interactive, from Nov. 2 to Nov. 30, Democratic candidate Tom Steyer spent nearly $368K on digital ads in Texas. Steyer is followed by President Donald Trump’s campaign with more nearly $210K in the state.

In the past two weeks, new Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg spent $188K on Facebook in Texas. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former Vice President Joe Biden follow, but are spending much much less money on Texas Facebook ads compared to the top three.

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