Conservatives are outspending their opponents 10 to one on light-touch regulated Facebook, experts say.
Election rules are failing to keep pace with rapid changes in technology, allowing political parties to spend millions of pounds on locally targeted Facebook adverts with national campaign funds, experts have warned.
The outdated rules mean parties can tailor hyper-local adverts on Facebook as part of a spending “arms race” in marginal seats, despite rules that are supposed to limit spending in individual constituencies. Regulators do not know what adverts are being seen, creating the “potential for abuse on an unprecedented scale”, according to campaigners.
The Electoral Commission is under fire for not clamping down on the use of social media during elections, despite the widespread use of Facebook by the Conservatives in the 2015 general election. Both the Tories and Labour are believed to be investing heavily in Facebook adverts this time round.
“The public perception is that big money can buy elections,” said campaign group Unlock Democracy. “Until urgent reforms to electoral law are undertaken they will probably be right.”