Theme Analysis of Political Facebook Ads in the 2021 Dutch General Election

Joren Vrancken

Social media platforms have been trying to be more transparent about the political ads they run on their platforms, because the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that political campaigns are using social media on a large scale. One such transparency effort is the Facebook Ad Library, a public repository of all political ads run on Facebook and Instagram. This library provides journalist and researchers with data to get a better understanding of political advertising and microtargeting on Facebook's platforms. Unfortunately, the Facebook Ad Library only provides estimates and basic information. This paper analyses political ads in more depth, by examining the themes that ads are about. We provide a method to match themes to political Facebook ads and we apply this method to analyse Facebook ad campaigns ran by Dutch political parties during the 2021 Dutch general election.

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