I watched The Great Hack the other night. As I understood it, the Trump campaign team hired #CambridgeAnalytica
, which acquired from FB user behaviour data (likes, content watched, survey answers etc.) of users from swing states, from which a profile called “the persuadables” was developed. As the name suggests, these were individuals identified as undecided voters who could be targeted with online content to swing their votes to Trump.
Whether or not this campaign was effective wasn’t the focus of the documentary. Which is to say it’s not clear if these potential voters were actually undecided, who then backed Trump because of tailored content. The point is that Cambridge Analytica and FB were engaged in what might be classed as psyops: manipulating sections of the population through disseminating lies and fake news.
I get why this is bad, but then so is the fake news peddled by the mainstream media and political class? And targeted campaign material has always been around, usually coming from broadcast media, spam mail and door-knocking. Is it that only targeted internet content is unethical? Why? How is this episode more scandalous than the usual campaigning in swing constituencies?
It feels like the worst culprits of lies, smears, propaganda and demagoguery have found a convenient narrative to divert focus.