candidates for the Senate and House are vastly outpacing their
Republican opponents on Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram, according
to analysis by the New
York Times — although it’s impossible to
say how much of their upsurge is the result of mass-bans and algorithm
changes on the part of Facebook.
analysis shows a 7.8 million advantage in Facebook interactions for
Democrat Senate candidates vs. Republican Senate candidates in a 30-day
period ending October 15, and a 2 million advantage in interactions for
Democrats fighting House races over the same period.
in gubernatorial races do Republicans hold a slight advantage in
Facebook interactions — of just 100,000.
also hold a significant advantage on Instagram, with Democratic
candidates seeing 5.4 million interactions on their Instagram pages over
the thirty-day period, compared to just 213,000 for Republicans.
New York Times acknowledges that the Facebook
interactions gap is very different to the 2016 election, in which Donald
Trump significantly outpaced Hillary Clinton on the platform:
social media engagement can be a crude measure of popularity, and a
bellwether of shifts in public opinion that often turn up in polls
days or weeks later. In 2016, many polls and pundits gave Mr. Trump
little chance of winning, but his performance on Facebook was soaring,
bolstered by millions of dollars in targeted advertising. His digital
campaign director, Brad Parscale, later credited Facebook’s scale and
influence with his victory.
The Times attributes
the Democrats’ improved performance with their funding advantage, and a
“well-organized online resistance movement.”
of the Democrats’ social media gains can be attributed to a
well-organized online resistance movement. An influx of small-dollar
donations has given Democrats a large fund-raising lead, which has
allowed them to spend more on digital campaigning and advertising. A
surge in involvement from organizations like Tech for Campaigns —
which has mobilized nearly 10,000 volunteers from the tech industry to
help Democratic campaigns use digital tools — has also helped.
it is unlikely that fundraising is the only factor driving the current
Democrat advantage on social media. In 2016, the Clinton campaign vastly
outpaced the Trump campaign in fundraising — at times holding a 2-to-1
advantage — yet Clinton’s Facebook engagement
still fell short.
it briefly noting that Republican lawmakers have accused Facebook of
anti-conservative bias, the Times fails
to inform its readers of any actual examples of that bias.
includes Facebook’s dramatic change to its newsfeed rankings earlier
this year, which determine what content appears at the top of users’
feeds. The change resulted in a 45
percent drop in engagement on President Trump’s Facebook
posts, with no comparative decline for top Democratic politicians.
before the conclusion of the New York Times’ 30-day analysis period,
over 800 accounts and pages for spreading
“misinformation,” many of which were right-wing, anti-establishment,
libertarian and anti-war. As part of the purge, Facebook banned
multiple pages belonging to Brian Kolfage, an
Air Force veteran and triple amputee who had invested $300,000 in ads
for his pages that Facebook itself suggested, and who relied on the site
CEO Mark Zuckerberg also personally
made the decision to ban Infowars from the
platform earlier this year. The platform also came under fire for blocking Republican
congressional candidate Elizabeth Heng’s ad earlier this year for being