Lawrence Dodd lives in one of Britain’s most fiercely fought voting districts, and he has been peppered almost daily with ads from the country’s major political parties on Facebook. About a month ago, he tried to find out why.
Mr. Dodd, a maker of musical instruments in northern England, joined an experiment. He and around 10,000 others volunteered their data, allowing researchers to monitor in real time which political ads were showing up in their Facebook news feeds as Britain’s election approached.
Their goal: to shed more light on how political campaigns are using Facebook and other digital services — technologies that are quickly reshaping the democratic process, but which often offer few details about their outsize roles in elections worldwide.