Elections in Italy: Who spent the most money on Facebook ads?
With Italy’s general election just days away, the campaign has intensified, with parties holding rallies across the country.
Parties and candidates have also invested heavily in online advertisements, in addition to posters and street billboards.
A number of party leaders and candidates, including Silvio Berlusconi of Go Italy (Forza Italia), notably created Tik Tok accounts in the run-up to the election to attract young voters.
In Italy, the largest online audience is on Facebook, with around 38 million users, according to Statista.
Using Facebook’s own ad libraryEuronews investigated which parties and candidates spent the most money on Facebook Ads over the past 30 days, from August 22 to September 20.
The Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia) – led by Giorgia Meloni and currently leading in the polls – are the biggest spenders. The right-wing party spent €119,311 on 73 political ads on its official Facebook page, more than €43,000 more than any other party or organization.
After initially spending less than their political rivals, they have increased their spending online targeting voters in central and southern Italy.
Meloni, in particular, is one of the most followed Italian party leaders on Facebook (with over 2.4 million) and a further €21,411 was spent on Facebook ads on his own official page.
In total, Brothers of Italy has spent over €140.00 on Facebook ads in the last 30 days, more than humanitarian organizations such as Save the Children, Emergency and Unicef Italy.
The regions where all parties spent the most money on Facebook ads were Lombardy (€263,004), Sicily (€259,358) and Campania (€231,581).
Lombardy is the richest and by far the most populated region in Italy. Sicily and Campania, historically known for voting for right-wing parties, were overwhelmingly won by the Five Star Movement (M5S) in the last Italian elections in 2018.
Other members of the center-right coalition in Italy have also spent heavily on Facebook ads.
While the official League page only invested €6,000, the official page and its leader Matteo Salvini spent €62,655 on advertising alone. Salvini is Italy’s most followed politician on Facebook and regularly spends money on online advertisements.
Severino Nappi, regional councilor for Salvini’s party in Campania, has also spent €25,987 since August 22.
Similarly, Forza Italia spent five times more money on advertisements for its leader Berlusconi than on advertising on the party’s official page.
Meanwhile, Coraggio Italia – member of the Us Moderates group – has spent €59,305 on ads in the last 30 days
In total, the centre-right coalition spent more than €292,000 on Facebook ads on the official pages of their parties or party leaders.
On the other hand, the centre-left coalition invested around half as much over the same period (less than €149,000).
The More Europe (+E) party was the centre-left coalition’s biggest spender with €57,234, while the Democratic Party (PD) invested a total of just €46,540 and no money at all on the Facebook page of its chef Enrico Letta.
Among the leaders of the major Italian parties, Letta has the fewest Facebook followers.
However, an unofficial Facebook page for PD supporters spent an additional €27,603 on 8 Facebook ads in the past 30 days, while a PD candidate, Antonio Misiani, spent an additional €13,006 on online advertising on Facebook.
Luigi di Maio’s center-right Civic Movement (IC) and Giuseppe Conte’s populist M5S spent far more money advertising on their leader’s Facebook pages than on their own.
In fact, the Five Star Movement official page has not invested in ads for the past 90 days.
Meanwhile, Italexit leader — Gianluigi Paragone — whose party has no official Facebook page, has spent €7,364 on ads over the past 30 days.
The Italian Data Protection Agency recently asked Facebook to clarify its information campaign that targets potential Italian voters.
Meta says the initiative aims to counter interference and remove content that discourages voting, working with independent fact-checking organizations.
The social network will have to provide “detailed information” about its data processing methods to ensure the initiative only affects users aged 18 and over, the watchdog said.
A spokesperson for Meta said the company’s Italian election tools have been “expressly designed to respect user privacy” and comply with strict EU data protection rules (GDPR).
“We are cooperating with the Italian Data Protection Authority to explain how we are working to help protect the integrity of the Italian election and to connect people with reliable election information from the Ministry of Interior,” added the spokesperson.