by Aimee Cartwright

As the next UK general election begins to creep into our social media feeds, there is bound to be an influx in political content, whether that’s from organisations, advocates, or general social media users.

The question is: what’s the difference between political advocacy and freedom of speech in the field of politics?

SP Index makes a clear distinction between these two concepts, ensuring we do not report political opinions unless they are linked to political advocacy work. Read on to discover how we carry out compliant Political Advocate Checks for our clients.

Defining Political Advocacy vs Freedom of Speech

There is a difference between exercising our freedom of expression and engaging in political advocacy.

Expressing a preference for a particular political party or ideology, or even engaging in heated debates with people whose views oppose ours, are not necessarily examples of political advocacy. Instead, this may be defined as free speech, which is ‘the right to express your opinions publicly’.

Political advocacy can be defined as ‘public support for an idea, plan, or way of doing something’ within the field of politics. Online political advocates are attempting to influence public opinion through their social media content. They may do this by:

  • Promoting a particular political party
  • Sharing adverse content from opposing political organisations
  • Publishing petitions

Why We Distinguish Between Political Advocacy and Freedom of Speech in Our Research

As we pride ourselves on compliant Social Media Checks, we will never share a candidate’s political opinions with an employer when their social media content falls solely under freedom of expression.

Understanding the difference between political advocacy and freedom of speech is crucial for unbiased Social Media Checks, and SP Index researchers are trained to expertly distinguish between the two.

From an ethical standpoint, it would be unreasonable to pass on a candidate’s political opinions to their current or prospective employer without having a justifiable reason to do so (i.e., reporting advocate activity).

However, this is not only an ethical matter – crucially, it’s a legal obligation. By only informing employers of political advocacy activity, we are safely in line with the Equality Act 2010, which states that protected characteristics (including political philosophy) must be respected by employers.

Ultimately, we do not wish to discriminate against anyone who shares their political perspectives on social media. Assessing advocate activity is helpful for the safety and reputation of political organisations, whereas reporting individual opinions could potentially trigger workplace discrimination.

How We Distinguish Between Political Advocacy and Freedom of Speech in Our Research

There are key signs that an individual is engaging in advocate activity online, such as using organised communication tactics and lobbying. Our Social Intelligence Team are skilled at picking up on this quickly, and analysing the content to check whether it should be classed as political advocacy.

When SP Index Social Intelligence Officers come across any political content, they perform an objective contextual analysis to find out whether it is an example of political advocacy or simply freedom of expression.

To give an example, if a candidate had published several posts stating ‘I’m never voting Conservative again’ or ‘I hope Labour don’t get in’, provided there was no other evidence of political advocacy, this would not be included in the check results.

However, the content would be passed onto the client if it was an advocate’s attempt to derail the campaign of a political party or group.

As with all of our Social Media Checks and online background checks, we also flag adverse content. This means we may flag a candidate’s political views if we believe it may pose a risk to the employer. Examples include:

  • Inciting violence against a politician
  • Using expletives
  • Engaging in illegal activity
  • Endorsing the use of drugs
  • Being sexist or racist


What happens when you find advocacy content on a candidate’s profile?

When we detect advocacy activity in our Political Advocate Social Media Checks, we add this information to our objective reports to convey the candidate’s online behaviours to the employer.

We are not involved in the next steps, so we will never advise an employer on whether they should recruit or keep a candidate based on our reports.

What happens if your researchers have strong political views?

Our continuous training programme and rigid quality assurance and audit process ensure our customers will always receive an impartial report, regardless of the political persuasion of the researcher.

SP Index researchers are trained to let go of any personal or political opinions in favour of objective analysis.

How can I access the information you have about me?

You can request a Subject Access Request Form by emailing To find out more about how we protect your data, see our Privacy Policy.


If you have any questions about how we perform our Political Advocate Checks, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Telephone: 0800 468 1688


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