Civitates grantee partners team up to study political advertising during the Hungarian elections

Published: 11 October 2022

Civitates’ grantee partners the Civil Liberties Union for EuropeWho Targets Me and 444’s fact-checking platform collaborated on research around the Hungarian elections in April 2022. They examined how Hungarian political parties targeted audiences with tailored political ads on Facebook during the campaign period leading up to the elections.

Time and again CSOs have raised their voices about how harmful some practices related to targeted political ads can be for democracy. Political parties use highly personalised digital campaigning via social media with low levels of transparency, accentuating polarisation and disinformation. “This practice allows for political targeting that tends to be more negative and emotional than traditional political advertising campaigns.– Sam Jeffers, co-founder of Who Targets Me, a platform helping individuals understand targeting processes during political campaigns.

The Civil Liberties Union for Europe further clarifies that “tailoring information according to the audience results in creating bubbles in the society. When each group receives different and possibly conflicting information, meaningful public debate is impossible.”

The joint research has shown that political actors in Hungary could target their campaign ads by gender, age, and any other individual characteristic. The research team explains that “by targeting beyond language and constituencies, Hungarian political entities could say different things to different people, thereby potentially creating filter bubbles. Such a practice increases polarisation in already polarised societies.

In 2021 the European Commission presented a proposal to regulate political advertising both traditional and digital. The research team has listed recommendations on how the draft Regulation could increase the transparency of political campaigns and help protect the freedom and fairness of democratic processes.

Read the full report here.