Social Media and Elections

By: Amy Zeng

Social media: How have elections been affected?

Question: How has social media impacted elections in the U.S.A and the U.K?


I’m sure that most, if not all of us have heard about the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal. For those who haven’t, it’s a scandal where the data of millions of Facebook users were collected by Cambridge Analytica. The data was then used mainly for political advertising. They provided the data to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump for their campaigns. Here, I want to discuss just how much communication technology like social media can affect an election.

Your Task

You have been assigned a project, and you must prepare a presentation with at least 5 slides on the following topic.

Question: How much can social media affect elections in the U.S.A and U.K?

Your Journey


Democracy/democratic: Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.

Election: A time when people vote in order to choose someone for a political or official job

Voter: One that votes or has the legal right to vote

Misinformation: Incorrect or misleading information

Targeted advertising: A form of online advertising that focuses on the specific traits, interests, and preferences of a consumer


While this is a global issue, it predominantly affects the more developed democratic countries. This webquest, however, will be focused on two of the many countries that fulfil those conditions. Namely, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom.



Here is a video briefly going over what happened.

Short video explaining what the scandal is.

This scandal is confirmed to be involved with multiple elections, and suspected of being involved with others.


The American 2016 election is one of the elections with confirmed ties to the above mentioned scandal. This article, named “Cambridge Analytica’s blueprint for Trump victory“, shows part of a presentation that has techniques used to target voters.

And this is a Ted Talk about the result of the 2016 British election why it happened, while also covering the American election.

As you watch this video, it might be a good idea to jot down some things that catch your attention, like how Facebook was persuading voters.

With this, we can see that social media is extremely influential, to a frightening degree.


For this year’s election in the U.S.A, Facebook banned all new political ads a week before the election.

This is an article, detailing why, and what else Facebook is doing to limit the effect of social media in elections, along with some other information.

Facebook has been taking a neutral stance on the election this time. They are checking for incorrect facts in the political ads posted, as well as the new rule of not allowing new ads a week before the election.


By now, you should have enough information to answer the question and create a simple presentation, although there’s much more to read if you want. Most of the articles included are short enough for a quick read, but make sure you read them before coming to an answer to the question poised at the start.

Social media has definitely impacted elections, but it’s up to you to decide how much they’ve affected democratic elections.


Works Cited

“Ads about Social Issues, Elections or Politics | Facebook Ads Help Center.” Facebook Ads Help Center, 2019, Accessed 12 Nov. 2020.

Cadwalladr, Carole, et al. “How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions.” The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2018, Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

Dwoskin, Elizabeth, et al. “Facebook Tries to Head off Election Turmoil, Angering Both Trump and Democrats.” Washington Post, 3 Sept. 2020, Accessed 12 Nov. 2020.

Isaac, Mike. “Facebook Moves to Limit Election Chaos in November.” The New York Times, 3 Sept. 2020, Accessed 12 Nov. 2020.

Madrigal, Alexis C. “What Facebook Did to American Democracy.” The Atlantic, The Atlantic, 12 Oct. 2017, Accessed 12 Nov. 2020.

Reuters Staff. “What Are the Links between Cambridge Analytica and a Brexit Campaign Group?” Reuters, 22 Mar. 2018,

Samsel, Haley, and Patrick Svitek. “Ted Cruz Says Cambridge Analytica Told His Presidential Campaign Its Data Use Was Legal.” The Texas Tribune, 20 Mar. 2018, Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

Scott, Mark. “Cambridge Analytica Did Work for Brexit Groups, Says Ex-Staffer.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 30 July 2019, Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

Weaver, Matthew. “Cambridge Analytica: Ex-Director Says Firm Pitched Detailed Strategy to Leave.EU.” The Guardian, The Guardian, 17 Apr. 2018, Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.