Ontario Proud, the right-wing Facebook giant in Ontario's election, eyes federal election involvement - 2018-06-05
Social media has been an important election battleground for well over a decade, but no group in Canadian politics has ever used Facebook as effectively as Ontario Proud to quickly build a huge outreach network to spread its message. Founded by former federal Conservative staffer Jeff Ballingall, Ontario Proud started off as an anti-Liberal Facebook page at the height of the furor over Ontario's hydro rates in February 2016, and has since amassed more than 364,000 followers.
It boasts "engagement" statistics (the number of people seeing and interacting with the content) much higher than almost any Ontario media outlet, political party, or activist group, and Ballingall often posts data showing thousands or millions of views on an Ontario Proud post with zero money spent on advertising. The group has now raised enough money to fund television ads and phone polling.
Its actual effect on the election is difficult to gauge, as Premier Kathleen Wynne was already tremendously unpopular when Ontario Proud started. And other third-party groups, particularly union-backed organizations such as the Working Families coalition, have long been a feature of Ontario elections. But it's Ontario Proud's skill at exploiting Facebook's algorithm to spread its message while spending relatively little money that separates it from other organizations — and makes it more difficult to regulate.