The Government has spent more than a quarter of a million pounds on Facebook adverts preparing the public for Brexit on October 31.
This despite parliament voting for a delay to Brexit if Boris Johnson fails to negotiate a deal with the remaining EU member states by mid October.
Figures from the social network showed the UK Government had spent £216,613 on the adverts between September 8 and September 14 – taking the total to £256,275 in 30 days.
Facebook began releasing data on ad spending last year, following criticism for how it shared personal data with advertisers and political groups, including Cambridge Analytica.
The platform allows advertisers to pay to target users based on information they have shared on the site, including age, gender, location and interests.
The “get ready for Brexit” campaign, reportedly costing the taxpayer £100 million, has also seen the messaging placed on billboards, bus stops and other social media platforms.
Spending figures for those platforms have not been made publicly available so the total spent so far is likely to be far higher than the number outlined by Facebook.
Boris Johnson has claimed the UK will still leave the EU on October 31 “no ifs, no buts”, despite MPs passing a law appearing to bar an exit without a deal.
The Prime Minister travelled to Luxembourg on Monday for talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, telling reporters he was “cautious” about progress in talks on a new Withdrawal Agreement.
Conservative Party’s misleading Facebook advert
The latest spending figures come after the Conservative Party was accused of misrepresenting a BBC News article in a Facebook advert.
Fact-checking charity Full Fact found the Tories had been running adverts that linked to a BBC story and contained the headline “£14 billion cash boost for schools”. However, the article itself put the figure at £7.1 billion.
A Conservative Party spokesman said: “It was not our intention to misrepresent by using this headline copy with the news link, where the BBC’s £7 billion figure is clearly displayed, but we are reviewing how our advert headlines match accompanying links.”
The Conservatives have also been accused of using social media for data harvesting, as the majority of the Facebook adverts encouraged recipients to share their views by signing forms or taking surveys that allowed the party to subsequently target them with further advertising by email, online or by post.
Other Tory adverts took aim at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, with one reading: “Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon want to pick and choose which votes they respect – ignoring 17.4 million Leave votes.
“Add your name now to show them they can’t get away with it.”
The adverts echo tactics by pro-Brexit campaigns such as Leave.EU and Britain’s Future, which targeted constituents of Remain-supporting MPs, urging the public to email them or even deselect them.
The messaging comes as ministers still promise to leave the EU on Halloween, with or without a deal, despite that now involving breaking the law and defying the parliamentary vote to rule out no-deal.