Right now, as the presidential campaigns start moving faster and faster, it's worth taking a look at some of the Facebook data stories from last fall around Cambridge Analytica. Data points sold by Facebook to political campaigns and corporations around the world, are now really swinging into play with political advertising that’s probably reaching hundreds of millions of people. This is not just everyday advertising, this is advertising that's designed to manipulate consumers emotions.
Watching all of the infighting among different Democratic Party candidate supporters in the run-up to the super Tuesday primaries, I've been thinking a lot about a book I've been reading, by Brittany Kaiser, called Targeted: The Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower's Inside Story of How Big Data, Trump, and Facebook Broke Democracy and How It Can Happen Again. The depth of scientific manipulation of the voting public on social media platforms by the Donald Trump presidential campaign was unique. It actually was designed to start fights exactly like what we're seeing play out then and again right now.
Michael Wade's article from two years ago lays it out perfectly:
"Cambridge Analytica was contracted to the Trump campaign and provided an entirely new weapon for the election machine. While it also used demographic segments to identify groups of voters, as Clinton’s campaign had, Cambridge Analytica also segmented using psychographics. As definitions of class, education, employment, age and so on, demographics are informational. Psychographics are behavioural – a means to segment by personality."
One of my favorite trends to watch lately are all the ways journalists and other media movers are ingeniously working around internet shutdowns and other technical problems. Like when Hong Kong protesters last year worked around internet shut-downs with the Bluetooth-based Bridgefy app. My favorite innovation champ, Ren LaForme, wrote recently about El Timpano as a tool for publishers to text news out to their readers, find out more here.
Right now I’m especially fascinated by Outlier Media’s smartphone text-based news distribution networks that allow users a custom opportunity to dig into important information -- even details about their own home.
“Outlier is service journalism on demand. We deliver high value information directly to news consumers over text message and offer every user the ability to connect directly with a reporter. Txt OUTLIER to 73224 to see how it works. If you’re looking for important info on any home in Detroit delivered right to your phone txt DETROIT to 73224.”
Last month Outlier merged with the nationally-focused MuckRock, and vowed to bring their projects to a larger audience.
This is how crucial their work is.
As we stumble into the 2020 presidential election horse race, this is a good time to look at all the tools out here to fact-check what you’re consuming in the media environment. There are a few nonprofit news organizations focusing on accuracy in media and fact-checking, but my favorite is the international organization First Draft News (dive Into their website for reports and tip sheets on how to cut through "information disorder" -- their term -- translated into five languages). They have -what I think of as The Magical Dashboard, linking to dozens and dozens of places you can factcheck photos, videos, social media posts and more. Go look at it right away!
First Draft News came up with the SHEEP standard for decision making when it comes to sharing links on social media (source, history, evidence, emotion, pictures). Last month I was able to attend one of First Draft News’ day-long training workshops on combating “disinformation disorder” in the US Census and the national elections coming up in November. Virtually all of the content taught at First Draft’s workshop is covered in this incredible series of free downloadable reports, including “Verifying Online Information,” “Closed Groups, Messaging Apps and Online Ads,” and starting with “Understanding Information Disorder.” . Check them out and support their work!