Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus explore the latest in Election winning software as sold by Cambridge Analytica and used by the Republican Party in the US General Election. It was also seemingly used by the Brexit campaigners in the UK. Their article explores the evolution of the pyschograph model and data collection techniques developed by academics and then looks at its more sinister uses via Facebook profiling data and big data analytics.
There are two lessons from this. The first, easier and personal one is to seriously consider how one uses Facebook, if at all. I feel it harder to give up now that messenger has E2E encryption but I shan’t be doing any more quizzes, not even what D&D class would you be; I suppose especially not what D&D class are you, (Wizard by the way). Even the fact that I did an ABBA quiz yesterday and not Lady Gaga seems to give these nosy bastards data that they use.
The second lesson is for the Labour Party and relates to the fact that Trump’s campaign (and to some extent the Brexit and UK GE 2015) have updated the IT playbook. Up until then Obama’s 2012 campaign was the model to match and beat. To compare with this, in 2015, Labour spent more on the “Ed Stone” detailing the infamous five pledges than on Facebook and while some message prototyping, where messages are tested for effectiveness and then targeted and a tiny amount of crowd sourced message design occurred, we have to do better.
In the run up to the election, both Labour and the Tories brought in consultants from the Obama campaign, Labour brought in David Axelrod, and the Tories brought in Jim Messina. Messina would seem to have been the big data champion in Obama’s campaign and with the help of Cambridge Analytica they rewrote the political IT playbook.
The Electoral Commission are now looking into the legality of the Tories expenditure; micro-targeting and message customisation has been shown to cause campaign accounting problems since local and national expenses need to be accounted for separately and have separate limits.
And this is all before the authorities consider the data protection and privacy implications.
There are dangers from micro-targeting as promises made to some groups can be used against the authors. The Motherboard article highlights Clinton’s problem over relief in Haiti and in the UK, Ed Miliband’s mansion tax did not play well in London and the way the British deal with racism in politics has always given hostages to fortune, as we can see on some of the attacks on Ken Livingstone and aspects of the 2016 London Mayoral campaign.
The use of pyschographs and the messages it creates is a reinforcement of the the move from a transactional politics to perception based campaign; it’s one of the reasons that Ed Miliband failed and Labour’s new left, but aged leadership can’t break through to the electorate and one of the reasons why May can adopt elements of Miliband’s programme on energy and the minimum wage. Programmes and promises don’t count as much as they used to.
How to change perception is hard. I have been struggling with “Perception is reality” for many years because it isn’t. There are facts beyond perception and ignorance is ignorance.
Fixing Labour’s IT is easier, and the answer isn’t PHP and an updated voter ID system, it needs a modern applications architecture, a big data platform and it would seem they need to resurrect the once famed rapid rebuttal system. The excuse we can’t afford it no longer holds true. Did you know Labour is debt free?
This is a longer comment based on what I said facebook yesterday, I have made a story @ storify which has some further sources. This article was published on ello.davelevy.info, it has tool tips and should probably have been posted on the blog.