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‘Young Unionists’ group shells out £20k on more than 100 Facebook ads

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EIGHTEEN months ago, a Facebook page was set up to campaign for the Union. Young Unionists is one of many such pages established by activists to influence political debate. But unlike most others, it has also paid for around 100 adverts on the platform in recent months.

As many as 107 separate payments to Facebook are listed by the little-known group in the run-up to this year’s Scottish Parliament election, costing it £19,925. That’s all but £72 of its entire donations take, according to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission.

The funding was registered with the elections watchdog as the “total value of funds not reported individually”, and so it is not possible to track its exact origin.

There is no evidence that Young Unionists broke any rules. What we can see is that it’s been used circulate a string of campaign claims and tactical voting calls that have been seen by hundreds and thousands of user accounts and targeted at millions more.

Based just off Edinburgh’s Princes Street, the group is registered at Rose Street Lane South, giving it a prime city centre location. But the address is also used by a company that sells virtual office rental to many other organisations.

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The accounts show the group was set up by Max Young, whose credits include articles for the right-of-centre ThinkScotland website set up by care home magnate Robert Kilgour. Other writers include politicians George Galloway, Michelle Ballantyne and Brian Monteith.

Prior to registering his current campaign – just weeks before the May vote – Young was the “responsible person” for Capitalist Worker, another non-party drive which launched on Facebook in late 2019 and had almost 30 of its paid-for adverts taken down by the host firm for violating its advertising policies by failing to declare who was behind them.

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Its page went up as then-Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn prepared for what would be a disastrous December General Election result for his party, and one that would see him resign. Capitalist Worker hasn’t run an ad since then and hasn’t made a single post on the network since April 2020.

Young Unionists set up its page two months later, using an image of Aberdeen’s Wallace statue overlaid across Edinburgh Castle as its profile image and telling followers: “This will provide a place for young people living in Scotland to view and share content which will help us put forward a strong Unionist message going into the 2021 Scottish Parliament Election.

“For too long, the SNP have mismanaged Scotland’s public services and finances and created huge division throughout Scotland. The SNP have taken the youth vote for granted, while simultaneously closing opportunities for young Scots and not fulfilling their manifesto promises.

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“This group aims to bring a united opposition against the SNP’s harmful policies and protect Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom.”

Despite marketing itself as a live campaign, there’s been no new activity on the page since the start of June and it’s been liked by fewer than 1200 people. Its website, initially registered in October last year, is low on information and activity. Its one link is to a donations page seeking help to “promote our story on social media” and to “bring young Unionists together for events”.

But while the focus is ostensibly on the youth vote, many of the bought ads have been seen predominately by older viewers. In one example, a 13-second clip focusing on child poverty garnered between 60,000 and 70,000 impressions, but just 2% of these were by women in the 18-24 age group. Only 4% of views were by men in this category. In contrast, the highest level of views was by men aged 45-54.

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Another ad used the image of a pitchfork and a farm animal in yellow and black, stating: “Nationalism is on the rise in Europe. Choose reason. Don’t be a sheep for the Scottish nationalists.”

Yet another showed a pipe-smoking, crown-wearing, Union Jack emblazoned rocket jettisoning a Saltire-stamped booster and stating: “Don’t break from the ship. Vote for the Union. We’re a family for God’s sake.”

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Young did not respond to an approach by The National.

At the weekend, the Sunday National detailed a new “dark money” donations row centred around the Unionist campaign Scotland Matters.

The money came from the London- registered “Centre for Economic Educ- ation and Training”. It’s not known who is behind that and where the £46,000 funds have come from. On Monday, it emerged the donation may be in breach of electoral rules which require registration from third-party political campaigners spending more than £25,000 in a calendar year.

The Electoral Commission told The Guardian it will “be seeking to obtain information from the Centre for Economic Education and Training to clarify its status and whether it is subject to any political finance requirements”. Scotland Matters said it had fulfilled its obligations.

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Updating Special Ad Audiences for housing, employment, and credit advertisers

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On June 21, 2022 we announced an important settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way we deliver housing ads to people residing in the US. Specifically, we are building into our ads system a method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad.

As part of this agreement, we will also be sunsetting Special Ad Audiences, a tool that lets advertisers expand their audiences for ad sets related to housing. We are choosing to sunset this for employment and credit ads as well. In 2019, in addition to eliminating certain targeting options for housing, employment and credit ads, we introduced Special Ad Audiences as an alternative to Lookalike Audiences. But the field of fairness in machine learning is a dynamic and evolving one, and Special Ad Audiences was an early way to address concerns. Now, our focus will move to new approaches to improve fairness, including the method previously announced.

What’s happening: We’re removing the ability to create Special Ad Audiences via Ads Manager beginning on August 25, 2022.

Beginning October 12th, 2022, we will pause any remaining ad sets that contain Special Ad Audiences. These ad sets may be restarted once advertisers have removed any and all Special Ad Audiences from those ad sets. We are providing a two month window between preventing new Special Ad Audiences and pausing existing Special Ad Audiences to enable advertisers the time to adjust budgets and strategies as needed.

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For more details, please visit our Newsroom post.

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Impact to Advertisers using Marketing API on September 13, 2022

For advertisers and partners using the API listed below, the blocking of new Special Ad Audience creation will present a breaking change on all versions. Beginning August 15, 2022, developers can start to implement the code changes, and will have until September 13, 2022, when the non-versioning change occurs and prior values are deprecated. Refer below to the list of impacted endpoints related to this deprecation:

For reading audience:

  • endpoint gr:get:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field operation_status

For adset creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/adsets
  • field subtype

For adset editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdCampaign
  • field subtype

For custom audience creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field subtype

For custom audience editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:CustomAudience

Please refer to the developer documentation for further details to support code implementation.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Introducing an Update to the Data Protection Assessment

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Over the coming year, some apps with access to certain types of user data on our platforms will be required to complete the annual Data Protection Assessment. We have made a number of improvements to this process since our launch last year, when we introduced our first iteration of the assessment.

The updated Data Protection Assessment will include a new developer experience that is enhanced through streamlined communications, direct support, and clear status updates. Today, we’re sharing what you can expect from these new updates and how you can best prepare for completing this important privacy requirement if your app is within scope.

If your app is in scope for the Data Protection Assessment, and you’re an app admin, you’ll receive an email and a message in your app’s Alert Inbox when it’s time to complete the annual assessment. You and your team of experts will then have 60 calendar days to complete the assessment. We’ve built a new platform that enhances the user experience of completing the Data Protection Assessment. These updates to the platform are based on learnings over the past year from our partnership with the developer community. When completing the assessment, you can expect:

  • Streamlined communication: All communications and required actions will be through the My Apps page. You’ll be notified of pending communications requiring your response via your Alerts Inbox, email, and notifications in the My Apps page.

    Note: Other programs may still communicate with you through the App Contact Email.

  • Available support: Ability to engage with Meta teams via the Support tool to seek clarification on the questions within the Data Protection Assessment prior to submission and help with any requests for more info, or to resolve violations.

    Note: To access this feature, you will need to add the app and app admins to your Business Manager. Please refer to those links for step-by-step guides.

  • Clear status updates: Easy to understand status and timeline indicators throughout the process in the App Dashboard, App Settings, and My Apps page.
  • Straightforward reviewer follow-ups: Streamlined experience for any follow-ups from our reviewers, all via developers.facebook.com.

We’ve included a brief video that provides a walkthrough of the experience you’ll have with the Data Protection Assessment:

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The Data Protection Assessment elevates the importance of data security and helps gain the trust of the billions of people who use our products and services around the world. That’s why we are committed to providing a seamless experience for our partners as you complete this important privacy requirement.

Here is what you can do now to prepare for the assessment:

  1. Make sure you are reachable: Update your developer or business account contact email and notification settings.
  2. Review the questions in the Data Protection Assessment and engage with your teams on how best to answer these questions. You may have to enlist the help of your legal and information security points of contact to answer some parts of the assessment.
  3. Review Meta Platform Terms and our Developer Policies.

We know that when people choose to share their data, we’re able to work with the developer community to safely deliver rich and relevant experiences that create value for people and businesses. It’s a privilege we share when people grant us access to their data, and it’s imperative that we protect that data in order to maintain and build upon their trust. This is why the Data Protection Assessment focuses on data use, data sharing and data security.

Data privacy is challenging and complex, and we’re dedicated to continuously improving the processes to safeguard user privacy on our platform. Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to build a safer, more sustainable platform.

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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