While Washington's go-to narrative repeatedly restates the Russian electoral interference story, recent releases of data from Cambridge Analytica shows that at least one American insider played a role in getting American voters to see things his way. Thanks to @HindsightFiles on Twitter and Brittany Kaiser, a former Cambridge Analytica business development director, we have an inside glimpse into the war for our minds….and our votes.
In case you have forgotten, Cambridge Analytica (CA) was the British firm that used Facebook user data to target political ads to what can only be described as vulnerable American voters. By using data mining and analysis, Cambridge Analytica was able to collect data on voters including consumer behaviour, other internet activity and demographics without their permission and then tailor digital advertising to each of the voters. The 2016 American presidential election and the 2014 midterm election were not the only election that Cambridge Analytica was active; it was also active during election cycles in Australia, Malta, India, Kenya, the United Kingdom and Mexico among others. In fact, in 2019, Cambridge Analytica executives stated that they had been active in more than 200 elections around the world.
Before we go any further and to help you better understand this posting, let's look at a definition for psychographic data. Here's a definition:
"Psychographic data consist of information about a person’s values, attitudes, interests and personality traits. In essence, compiling psychographic data builds a profile about how a person views the world, the things that interest them and what triggers motivate them to action."
As you can imagine, in the technologically-based world that we live in today, psychographic data about individual voters is virtually an electoral gold mine that can be used to manipulate those among us who are not particularly deep thinkers.
Now, let's look at one aspect of Cambridge Analytica's activities in the 2016 American presidential election that has come to light thanks to Ms. Kaiser's revelations. Let's start by looking at an email from Robert Murtfeld, former director of commercial sales/director of business sales at Cambridge Analytica as shown here:
Here is the email:
Do you notice a familiar name (highlighted for your convenience) in this email? That's right, Cambridge Analytica was doing work for John Bolton's Super PAC during the 2014 midterm election. What I found particularly interesting is that one of these ads targets "people that are high in neuroticism, who tend to be anxious and to see the world as a dangerous place" (kind of sounds like John Bolton, doesn't it?). Here is the ad created for your viewing pleasure by Cambridge Analytica:
Here is another email linking Cambridge Analytica and John Bolton and the use of psychographic data to target voters:
Here is an mail from Alex Taylor of Cambridge Analytica regarding the setting up of a database for the American Conservative Union (ACU) in which John Bolton played a key role and the Mercer family which was then part owner of Cambridge Analytica and donors to the ACU :
Lastly, here is an analysis showing the case study for Cambridge Analytica's offshoot, CA Political providing us information on how the John Bolton Super PAC and how their use of psychographics managed to shift their opinions:
Let's close this posting with a thought. Given this distribution of Facebook users in the United States (January 2018):
…and this global distribution of Twitter users (October 2019):
…it is already quite likely that some outside party is already using our personal data to influence the outcome of the 2020 United States presidential election….and it's not necessarily just Russia, China or Iran. Sometimes the devil you know is your next door neighbour.
This release from the files of Cambridge Analytica show the lengths that John Bolton, an unelected American, was willing to go to to get American voters to see the world his way. His Super PACs use of psychographics to manipulate voters is just another fine example of the war that is on for our minds and our votes.
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