Facebook has a case study showing how much its ad targeting tools helped presidential candidate Gary Johnson

Key Points
  • Facebook has repeatedly downplayed any role its service may have had in the election of President Donald Trump
  • Yet the company is still touting how its political targeting tools boosted the candidacy of Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian Party nominee for President.
  • The promotional page is the strongest indication yet that Facebook believes its tools can boost a U.S. presidential campaign

Facebook officials, in their public statements and congressional testimony, have downplayed any role the social networking service may have had in electing President Donald Trump.

Yet the company's own marketing materials say its political targeting technology significantly boosted the U.S. presidential campaign of another candidate in 2016.

In a section of its website dedicated to what it calls "Success Stories," Facebook touts how effective its targeting technology was for the candidacy of Gary Johnson, the presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party.

Data shared on the page provides a strong indication that Facebook believes its political targeting tools can create positive results for an American running for national office.

According to the promotional page, Facebook's political targeting tools gave Johnson "a 6.8-point lift in favorable opinions" and "3.5 times as many donations in three months, compared to (the) entire 2012 campaign," in which Johnson also ran for president.

The Facebook post also quotes Anthony Astolfi, creative director at IVC Media & director of digital advertising of Johnson's campaign, as follows:

"Facebook's ad tools were so successful that the campaign was able to conduct its lead generation efforts for potential supporters and convert them to campaign donors at a rate that generated significant net revenues to the campaign. Direct donation solicitations were even more impressive, with a total return on investment of nearly 4X."

What's more, the page provides specific details on how a political campaign can use Facebook to boost its chances of success.

"The Gary Johnson for President camp created custom audiences based on people who visited the candidate's website, and then created lookalike audiences from those website visitors and people who purchased campaign merchandise. They also targeted Facebook's native political ideology clusters (which range from "Very Conservative" to "Very Liberal"), people interested in Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, and people likely to engage politically.

"The team used Facebook's full suite of political targeting options to ensure their ads reached the right people," the promotional page says.

That assessment echoes what Brad Parscale, the digital director for the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump, said on a 60 Minutes broadcast last October, when he credited Facebook with playing a major role in Trump's electoral success.

Late last week, however, Facebook vice president of ads Rob Goldman said that the indictments of a group of Russian individuals and propaganda organizations indicated that their main purpose was to sow discord among Americans -- not to elect Trump.

Similarly, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, in his testimony before Congress last Nov. 1 and in written replies to a Senate Committee made public last month, gave no indication that the company believes it helped elect Trump.

Yet if Facebook has enough data to back a claim that it boosted the campaign of Johnson, who received just 3.27 percent of the popular vote in 2016, it may have had a similar impact on Trump's candidacy.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.