Disinformation in Facebook Ads in the 2019 Spanish General Election Campaigns

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Disinformation in Facebook Ads in the 2019 Spanish General Election Campaigns


  • Lorena Cano-Orón Department of Language Theory and Communication Sciences, University of Valencia, Spain
  • Dafne Calvo Department of Early Modern History, Modern History and History of America, Journalism and Audiovisual Communication and Advertising, University of Valladolid, Spain
  • Guillermo López García Department of Language Theory and Communication Sciences, University of Valencia, Spain
  • Tomás Baviera Department of Economics and Social Sciences, Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain


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Abstract:  As fake news elicits an emotional response from users, whose attention is then monetised, political advertising has a significant influence on its production and dissemination. Facebook ads, therefore, have an essential role in contemporary political communication, not only because of their extensive use in international political campaigns, but also because they address intriguing questions about the regulation of disinformation on social networking sites. This research employs a corpus of 14,684 Facebook ads published by the major national political parties during their campaigns leading up to the two Spanish general elections held in 2019. A manual content analysis was performed on all the visually identical ads so as to identify those containing disinformation and those denouncing it. The topics addressed in these ads were then examined. The results show that the political parties’ Facebook ad strategies were akin to those of conventional advertising. Disinformation messages were infrequent and mainly posted by Ciudadanos and VOX. Nonetheless, it is striking that the main topic addressed in the ads was the unity of Spain—precisely the issue of Catalonia’s independence. In light of this, it can be deduced that ‘traditional’ parties are taking longer to renounce classical forms of campaigning than their ‘new’ counterparts, thus demonstrating that the actors implementing disinformation strategies are not only restricted to the extreme right of the ideological spectrum.

Keywords:  campaigns; disinformation; elections; Facebook; fake news; political communication; political parties; Spain

Published:   3 March 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v9i1.3335


© Lorena Cano-Orón, Dafne Calvo, Guillermo López García, Tomás Baviera. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.