Whether users are outspoken or not regarding their political views on their Facebook posts, the social network will still label them as either liberal, moderate or conservative.
Facebook has come up with a system to determine a user's political leanings, based on his or her activity on the social network. The labels are not hidden from users, though, as they can be checked by accessing an account's advertising preferences on Facebook.
On a browser, users should visit a specific Facebook page containing their ad preferences. They should then choose the Lifestyle and Culture tab under the Interests header and then look for a box labeled US Politics. If it is not there, clicking on the See More button should bring it up.
The label for a user's political views will be shown in parentheses as liberal, moderate or conservative. Like all the other ad preferences on the page, it can be removed by clicking the X button on the top right corner, in case users are not comfortable with being tagged with such a label for their political leanings.
How does Facebook determine the labels in the first place, especially for users who did not set a political preference on their profile page? One factor that the social network looks at to make the deduction is the pages that the user likes. For example, a user who liked the official page of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton might categorize him or her as a liberal.
If a user does not like any official pages of candidates and parties, another factor is the political views of the people who like the same page as the user does. For example, if most of the pages that the user likes are mostly also liked by Republican supporters, he or she might also be labeled as a conservative.
How the entire process works, however, remains unclear, as noted by Patrick Nancarrow, the co-founder of advertisement-targeting company TRGT Digital. The process is likely based on the user's interests that somehow correlate with political views, as the aforementioned examples illustrate, but up to what extent and which interests exactly are unknown.
Facebook has been collecting information on its users for years, with all of what the social networks knows about each user accessible through the Ad Preferences page. The company has recently updated the available preferences to give users more control over their advertising experience on the website in a bid to dismiss ad blockers, but the move has been maligned by companies such as Adblock Plus.