Sinn Féin officials told to ‘elicit’ information from Facebook users to find their home addresses
12th April 2021
Sinn Féin officials have been told to use personal information posted online by Facebook users to identify their home addresses.
An internal digital training seminar for party organisers shows they were told to “engage” with Facebook users to “elicit more specific information” which can then be utilised to “pinpoint them in the real-world”.
In the presentation, Sinn Féin members were told “Facebook is KING” and instructed to use it as a means of identifying supporters they can “engage with in the real world”.
The 16-page document said Facebook shows a person’s name and “roughly where they live” but members were then told to get more information from users of the online platform so they could “tag them as a social media engaged and follow up with a canvass on their doorstep”.
They were told they can cross-reference information gleamed online with the party’s searchable electoral database, the Abú system, to find the home addresses of potential voters.
The Abú system is a canvassing database developed by Sinn Féin which allows local organisers rank individual voters based on their likelihood to vote for the party.
The online street-by-street database is searchable and is described as a “powerful tool” for canvassing in the training manual. Members are given individual logins to access and update the system with information from canvasses.
People are listed as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ supporters of the party if they are seen as potential voters. There are also categories for “legacy” voters whose support may be wavering.
The ‘Digital Media Training’ presentation is dated September 2020 and party members were told to focus their social media efforts on Facebook rather than Twitter.
“It’s the only social media platform that helps you build your base in your constituents, grow your support and get out the vote on election day,” it said. “It provides extensive analytics on the people who are viewing and engaging with your posts including gender, age and location.
“It also has a highly sophisticated targeted advertising tool that is an essential element to reaching your voters as part of an effective digital market strategy.”
The presentation said the party’s headquarters operation is “heavily engaged” in running Facebook ads to ensure their “messages get seen and heard” and encouraged TDs to also take out paid-for advertising on the platform.
“Facebook allows you run ads and micro-target and pinpoint them to very specific areas within your constituencies and to different audience within those areas.
“You can target a specific message to different demographics such as younger voters, voters with children of school age, pensioners and those who work in specific occupations,” the presentation added. It also noted ads can be targeted at votes who support Sinn Féin but “still need to be persuaded”.
They were told to use Instagram because it has a much younger audience and Sinn Féin are performing well with young voters.
A Sinn Féín spokesperson said the only information their representatives hold “is information they are given by constituents”.
“The party fully complies with Facebook’s terms of service. We are also fully compliant with regulations concerning the use of the electoral register for exclusively electoral purposes.
“The electoral register is made available for use to all elected representatives,” he added.