How Facebook is profiting off the 2016 presidential election

facebook 2016 election app image
By November of this year, one candidate will have won the 2016 presidential election while many others will lose, but Facebook will have profited. American elections, which continue to grow more expensive year after year, have recently learned the power of social media when it comes to their advertising strategies, and now candidates on both sides of the field are spending outrageous sums of money through the social network to get the word out and bring people to the polls. Just how much are they spending? According to the Guardian, donors affiliated with Republican candidate Ted Cruz are spending some $10,000 per day on Facebook “placement,” but really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With a wide field and crunch time nearing, those numbers are just a sliver of the amount that Facebook is making off of politics.

It is estimated that by the time the dust settles and President Obama ends his tenure in the White House, Democrats, Republicans, and everyone in between will have spent around $10 billion to get their candidate into the seat of power. And a key vehicle on the road to Washington, undoubtedly, is the ubiquitous Facebook. While presidential candidates are unable to track individual voters, they can upload email lists, voter files (which include political habits, real names, addresses, and phone numbers) to Facebook’s advertising database. So if you feel like Donald Trump is just following you around on social media, he actually might be. Or at least, he has the capacity to do so.

Using Facebook and other digital media during an election cycle is nothing new — indeed, it was Barack Obama’s technological savviness back in 2008 that helped land him in the White House. But Facebook’s reach today dwarfs that of the Facebook of last decade, and the power that Mark Zuckerberg’s social platform maintains seems to grow day by day. “Facebook is the easiest and most effective platform,” said Zac Moffatt, the top digital strategist for Romney’s 2012 campaign. “They are so much more valuable than they were eight years ago.”

Candidates can use Facebook to target voters (and Facebook users) on hot-button issues from immigration to abortion to firework sales. And more frightening still, the Guardian reports, in some cases, campaigns are looking to find voters individually online using highly specified models.

So how much money is Facebook making off the presidential race? Digital ad spending is expected to surpass $1 billion in 2016, according to research by Borrell Associates, and while it’s unclear how large of a chunk Facebook will take, it’s safe to assume that it’s not chump change.

“Facebook has been a game-changer for our campaign and for the entire electoral process,” Marianne Copenhaver, creative director for Senator Rand Paul’s campaign told the Guardian. “We now have the ability to go live directly to the voters and reach thousands of people instantly.” And that may be the scariest thing of all.

Social Media

This event topped Facebook’s biggest moments of the year — again

As the year comes to a close, Facebook is looking back on what users discussed most over the last year. For two years in a row, International Women's Day topped the list. So what else is on the list?

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to endangered cats

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Social Media

You can now share saved Facebook posts with a Pinterest-like collection tool

Facebook collections can now be shared with friends if you also want to allow them to contribute to the list. Facebook is rolling out an update that allows users to add a contributor to their collections, or lists of saved Facebook posts.

Broadway actor tells Kanye West to get off his phone during opening night

Theater actors can get understandably upset when they spot someone in the audience fiddling with their phone instead of watching the show. The other night that audience member was Kanye West, and he got called out for it.
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Home Theater

It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

Tom Cruise, in an unexpected PSA tweet, asks you to turn off motion interpolation on your TV, but stops short of how to do it. Here's more on the topic, along with links to a guide on how to rid your TV of the dreaded "soap opera effect."

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.