Failed Donegal election candidate Peter Casey has confirmed he is suing Facebook over what he believes was a deliberate attempt to sabotage his chances in the general election earlier this year.
The Inishowen-based businessman wanted to spend €70,000 on advertising with the social media giant in the run-up to the February 8 poll.
However, he was prevented from doing so after repeated attempts to create politically driven sponsored posts.
Speaking to the Irish Daily Mail, Mr Casey said this put him at a major disadvantage.
“Leo Varadkar had called the election much earlier than everyone thought,’ he said. ‘I decided to have back surgery at the end of December, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to canvass and go knocking on doors.
“This is why I was relying very heavily on social media. I wanted to promote my agenda and offer my solutions to the housing crisis, such as bringing the 200,000 empty properties around Ireland back to use.’
However, the 62-year-old’s attempts to purchase his ads were thwarted for the duration of the election.
A message sent to Mr Casey by Facebook on January 31 said it noticed unusual activity on his account and asked for more details. These included reasons why the country of his credit card didn’t match his current location and why his PayPal email address differed from that associated with his account.
He said: ‘I did everything they asked for, but they just kept going back and forth with me for weeks. It didn’t make any sense, especially since Fine Gael and Fianna Fail had no problem purchasing ads.’ As the general election drew nearer, the former Dragons’ Den judge wrote a scathing email to Facebook’s head of public policy for Ireland, offering to hand-deliver the initial €10,000 to the company’s HQ in Dublin.
The email, seen by the Mail, stated: ‘Every minute that my competition is posting, and I am not, leaves me at a distinct disadvantage.
‘You are aware that I stood for the Seanad, the Presidency, the MEP and now the Dail, so it is somewhat baffling that you are delaying the promotion of my advertisements whilst allowing my competitors to promote their opposing agendas.’ The Independent candidate continued his pleas, but it wasn’t until the day of the election that Facebook acknowledged his advertising features were ‘incorrectly disabled’.
Three days after votes were cast, Mr Casey was eliminated on the fourth count in Donegal with just 1,142 first-preference votes.
And in Leo Varadkar’s constituency in Dublin West, he lost out on the second count with just 495 first-preference votes.
‘I can’t be any more blunt to say that Facebook had an agenda,’ claimed the Derry-born businessman.
‘People can work out what that agenda was, but I have an idea that it was because of a poster I designed, stating “ten reasons why not to vote for Leo”.’
A Facebook spokesman last night said the company was simply following new policies on political advertising.
He said: ‘In May 2019, we introduced tighter controls on political ads to make them more transparent. Anyone who wants to run political ads on Facebook must go through a verification process to prove who they are and that they live in Ireland, and every political ad is labelled, so people can see who paid for them. The same system applies to everyone who wishes to run political or issue ads in Ireland.’Tags: