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By February 6, 2015EU

By the London technology team

Like, share … vote? Tories spending big on Facebook 

Leaked invoices show that the Conservatives are spending £100,000 per month on Facebook advertising, which could finally mean we get the long promised ‘internet election’. 

Print advertising will still dominate spending, but digital delivers better bang for your buck as online adverts can be measured, payment is by results and the advertiser can gain invaluable user data and email addresses. The choice of platform is also interesting, as it shows parties believe Facebook is where normal voters are, even if Twitter is preferred by politicos. Counting likes and shares also helps evaluate whether a message is working and all these advantages makes forking out tens of thousands of pounds for one billboard seem like a relative gamble.

One major disadvantage is that social media will not make someone vote differently, as the high degree of personalisation means parties risk solely preaching to the converted, compared to a print ad seen by a wide range of people. Also, there is no guarantee of success – the Conservatives have essentially been buying ‘likes’ via promoted and sponsored posts, but UKIP are just behind in total ‘likes’ despite spending practically nothing.

The real value of social media in elections is getting people to do the parties work for them, sharing party messages and persuading sympathetic people to take action, from sharing a message to donating money, sticking a poster in their window or even actively campaigning. The story was widely reported, but was broken by Ross Hawkins for BBC News.

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Trolling efforts not twittering away

In the week that Twitter announced their fourth quarter earnings for 2014, Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo admitted in a leaked memo that the company “sucks” when it comes with dealing with Twitter trolls.

The memo admitted that bullying on the social network was driving users away. Indeed, this may be apparent in Twitter’s fourth quarter statistics which show that total monthly active users were 288 million, an increase of 20% compared to the year earlier but slower growth compared to the third quarter.

In his memo, Costolo wrote: “It’s no secret that the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.”

Trolling across all social networks is an issue that has been steadily rising to leading to several high profile individuals signing off of Twitter in exasperation. Twitter has already taken steps to address the issue but it appears that the social network will make some more to address a problem which is cutting into their bottom line. You can find an excellent summary of the story by the BBC here and the original story by The Verge here.

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Investigatory Powers Tribunal rules on UK/US intelligence-sharing regime

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has declared that regulations covering access by Britain’s GCHQ to emails and phone records intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights law.

According to the IPT, “The regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10” of the European convention on human rights (ECHR).

Writing for the Guardian, @owenbowcott highlighted the rationale behind the ruling – namely that the government’s regulations were illegal because the public were unaware of safeguards that were in place.

Privacy groups have welcomed the judgement, considering it to be at least a partial vindication of Snowden’s revelations. On the other hand, GCHQ maintain that there is an important distinction between the ‘mass surveillance’ they are accused of and the ‘bulk interception’ which they consider necessary. A statement from GCHQ can be found here.

The IPT’s ruling is especially meaningful in light of the fact that it is the first time in the court’s history that it has upheld a complaint relating to any of the UK’s intelligence agencies.