Facebook has for the first time published a report on what Albanian parties have spent on online advertising on the social media giant during the current parliamentary election campaign.
According to the report, the biggest parties predictably spent more money in sponsored posts for political content than the others.
The biggest advertiser was the ruling Socialist Party, which so far posted 394 ads costing 21,907 US dollars, followed by the main opposition centre-right Democratic Party, which spent 11,536 dollars on 81 ads.
According to BIRN’s calculations, 123,152 dollars was spent on political and social advertising by the parties in all. However, its data show that only 113,252 dollars were actually spent by parties, candidates or sites that distribute political ads. The rest of the ads were from the media and from companies that have been wrongly categorized by Facebook’s algorithm.
Gent Progni a web developer, told BIRN that the total amount spent by each party on FB seems quite low for a target audience of two million people, but the figures change if every candidate or other Facebook page campaigning for a political party is counted.
“The amounts are small for an audience of two million Albanians, looked at from the official websites of the parties. But if you see each candidate in particular, or sites that have just opened and are campaigning for parties, we have a completely different reflection of the amount, which increases several times,” he told BIRN.
According to BIRN, many newly opened Facebook pages are spreading political advertising but their expenses, which are high, are not connected always to parties or political candidates.
Facebook asked Albania to be transparent with political advertising in March during the election campaign by including “paid for by…” in sponsored posts.
Political expert Afrim Krasniqi, head of the Albanian Institute of Political Studies, a think tank based in Tirana, told BIRN that this is the first time an Albanian election campaign is being held more virtually than physically.
“This is why parties and candidates are using social media as the cheapest and fastest source of communication,” he told BIRN.
He added that Albania lacks a strong regulatory legal basis or control mechanism concerning the finances of election campaigns or party propaganda on social media.
A law, “On Political Parties”, only obliges parties to be transparent about their financial resources, while the Central Election Commission is responsible for monitoring and auditing the finances of political parties.