Clandestino or Rifugiato? Anti-immigration Facebook Ad Targeting in Italy

by   Arthur Capozzi, et al.

Monitoring advertising around controversial issues is an important step in ensuring accountability and transparency of political processes. To that end, we use the Facebook Ads Library to collect 2312 migration-related advertising campaigns in Italy over one year. Our pro- and anti-immigration classifier (F1=0.85) reveals a partisan divide among the major Italian political parties, with anti-immigration ads accounting for nearly 15M impressions. Although composing 47.6 65.2 campaigns use some kind of demographic targeting by location, gender, or age. We find sharp divides by age and gender: for instance, anti-immigration ads from major parties are 17 Unlike pro-migration parties, we find that anti-immigration ones reach a similar demographic to their own voters. However their audience change with topic: an ad from anti-immigration parties is 24 male user when the ad speaks about migration, than if it does not. Furthermore, the viewership of such campaigns tends to follow the volume of mainstream news around immigration, supporting the theory that political advertisers try to "ride the wave" of current news. We conclude with policy implications for political communication: since the Facebook Ads Library does not allow to distinguish between advertisers intentions and algorithmic targeting, we argue that more details should be shared by platforms regarding the targeting configuration of socio-political campaigns.


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