We oftentimes list our opinions, likes, and dislikes on Facebook. In fact, there’s probably not a better summation of who we are than what information we put into the social media goliath. Thing is, it’s not just our friend, frienemies, and family that learn about what we believe and mentally categorize us accordingly. Facebook’s algorithms do it too.
Many of us knew this already. It’s how the social network comes up with all sorts of suggestions for things we might like to look at, or Facebook pages we may want to be a part of. But it doesn’t just keep track of the fact that we like action movies, dogs, or certain video games. It also categorizes us politically.
And you can find out how, as New York Times author Jeremy B. Merrill discovered. The steps are simple.
Go to facebook.com/ads/preferences on your browser. (You may have to log in to Facebook first.)
That will bring you to a page featuring your ad preferences. Under the “Interests” header, click the “Lifestyle and Culture” tab.
Then look for a box titled “US Politics.” In parentheses, it will describe how Facebook has categorized you, such as liberal, moderate or conservative.
(If the “US Politics” box does not show up, click the “See more” button under the grid of boxes.)
I for one got “very conservative,” while some I know got “conservative,” and a handful got “moderate.” So how does Facebook deduce your political alignment? Some of its obvious, some of it isn’t.
Facebook makes a deduction about your political views based on the pages that you like — or on your political preference, if you stated one, on your profile page. If you like the page for Hillary Clinton, Facebook might categorize you as a liberal.
Even if you do not like any candidates’ pages, if most of the people who like the same pages that you do — such as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream — identify as liberal, then Facebook might classify you as one, too.
So even if you’re apolitical, liking pages that are typically liked or owned by left leaning people will help Facebook put you in certain categories. Interestingly enough, Facebook uses this information for the various types of people who may better receive different kinds of ads from those hoping you’ll look at them.
For instance, Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign has paid for its ads to be shown to those who Facebook has labeled politically moderate.
Campaigns can also use the groupings to show different messages to different supporters. They may want to show an ad to their hard-core supporters, for example, that is unlike an ad targeted at people just tuning in to the election.
So the message I get from Trump may be wholly different than the one you get due to Facebook’s figuring that I’m “very conservative.”
All in all, a pretty interesting look at how others may view your alignment via what you post, pages you like.