Roles for former Conservative and Labour figures prompt fears firm ‘whispering in ears’ of parties to aid micro-targeting of users.
Facebook has stepped up attempts to build its influence as a political tool by giving jobs to former senior Conservative and Labour campaign officials.
The Guardian has learned Facebook’s recruits have inside knowledge of how the major parties’ general election campaigns are likely to work. They include a former Downing Street adviser to David Cameron, a former aide to Ed Balls and a social media expert who worked with the Conservatives’ election strategist Lynton Crosby.
On Monday, the company confirmed it employed staff, “whose role it is to help politicians and governments make good use of Facebook”.
Campaign strategists for both Donald Trump and the Leave.EU campaign have said that reaching voters on Facebook has become pivotal to election success. Both Labour and the Conservatives have teams dedicated to targeted Facebook advertising and are thought to be preparing to hand the San Francisco company well over £1m in the coming weeks.
There has been growing concern about the ability of politicians to track the interests of Facebook users in order to “micro-target” voters. There are 31m registered Facebook accounts in the UK.
The Electoral Commission is investigating whether Leave.EU failed to declare spending or support from Cambridge Analytica, a Washington-based company that claims to be able to target voters based on psychometric profiling gleaned from their social media activity. Leave.EU denies any wrongdoing.