Big Data, We Meet Again.

As the obvious characters become fleshed out, more and more background detail is being revealed in this whole Trump Russia Election mess. One very interesting portion is described here:

The article does a very good job at sticking to layman’s terms in an extremely technical subject. Here’s the gist of it for you:

  1. Cambridge Analytica is a big data company that uses social media metrics, a ton of other metrics it can purchase, and data it collects through innocent looking personality quizzes and other Facebook posts designed to see which emoji you select as your reaction to it.
  2. SCL Elections is a company that offers to run political campaigns for candidates in very efficient way. You can see their pitch from their successful Ukraine campaign here.
  3. This efficient way is to use the CA data to target only people who are undecided and use aspects of media to get them angry enough to tip them towards their client candidate. This includes ALL data points, so they don’t target people in states that are clearly going to be winners or losers. They target the voters who data shows are open to influence.
  4. This is where #fakenews comes into play. Russians and bots are enlisted to create these multitudes of smear media pieces (memes, articles, blogs, reddit and twitter trolls, etc) to focus the anger of these “open to influence” voters.
  5. DirectTV allows advertisers to target individual households among its mostly rural customer base for cable ads. Extra big data points here.
  6. The pre-election polls were incorrect because the pollsters were all looking at traditional metrics: who voters SAID they were going to vote for. CA had the personal data, and they could see exactly how their targets were being swayed. They predicted the Trump win.

What does this mean for elections going forward? These techniques and services have been used in the Brexit campaign and many others. Should Facebook be held accountable for allowing their data to be used in such a way? What about the “likes” on Twitter or Instagram or any other social platform? How many “are you a cat or a dog” personality quizzes have you taken?

Bonus Points: Take Cambridge Analytica’s main personality quiz here. Of course, you have to sign into Facebook or give them your personal contact info to see your results. 🙂

Extra Homework: This article from August 2016 discusses the relationship between the Trump campaign and CA and asks “Will Donald Trump’s Data-Analytics Company Allow Russia to Access Research on U.S. Citizens? Tracing the suspicious-looking, and messy, ties between a Ukrainian oligarch, an elections-information firm, and the GOP candidate’s former campaign manager.”


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