FOI: Liberals and Facebook

Lib_FacebookEarlier this year the BC Liberals swamped Facebook with a barrage of “Sponsored Posts” (aka Facebook spam).

It proved to be a bad idea, since every one of these posts was met with hundreds of highly negative comments, about evenly divided between those who wished to challenge the far-fetched claims being made, and those who simply objected to having tax dollars used to pay for partisan election advertising.

I’ve long admired the excellent FOI work being done over at https://paroxysms.ca/, so I decided to make a Freedom of Information request to see how much tax money was being spent on this Facebook campaign. I asked for:

Contract details and detailed records of the costs of Suggested Post type advertising on Facebook.com and similar advertising on other social media web sites. Timeframe is January 1, 2013 to [March 5, 2013].

 

The response arrived today (see the PDF files below) and is notable for a couple of things.

First, it turns out that Facebook spam is really, really cheap. Despite drowning BC Facebook users for weeks with Liberal campaign ads, the government only paid Facebook a few hundred dollars – most invoices were between $30 and $50.

Of course that doesn’t include the time, labour, and design work to create the ads and the campaigns, so perhaps a follow up FOI is in order.

Second, and even more interesting?  ”Some information has been withheld pursuant to section 17 (Disclosure harmful to the financial or economic interests of a public body) of FOIPPA.

I find it pretty hard to understand what part of “buying ads on Facebook” could cause harm if disclosed.

Here are the PDFs that they sent me:
Response – Letter
Response – Records
Response – Premier’s Office

Stuff keeps on dribbling in:

Response – BC Public Service Agency