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Use of social media in election campaigns

(29 Posts)
MaizieD Sun 09-Apr-17 11:01:22

I'm really not sure where to put this as it ties in with a number of current threads so I thought I'd give it one of its own.

This is a story from The Canary which highlights the use by the tories in the 2015 election campaign of targeted adverts on Facebook. We know that the Trump election team used these techniques and that Brexit campaigners probably did but are we aware that they have been used in General Elections?

The objection the Canary is primarily interested in is the corruption angle; that Facebook ads were targeted specifically at voters in marginal consituencies but the costs were attributed to the national campaign rather than the local campaigns in those constituencies.

The other issue is that with such specifically targeted advertising we don't know what people are being told. We don't even know who is getting the adverts. This is very, very worrying in my opinion. It offers no opportunities for debate and rebuttal of wrong claims but plenty of opportunity for misleading voters.

What do people think?

MaizieD Sun 09-Apr-17 11:06:28

Damn, posting in a rush and forgot to post link sad

whitewave Sun 09-Apr-17 11:07:34

Well there seems to enough overwhelming anacdotal evidence as well as those with the wealth to fund these projects for there to be more than an element of truth in this

There are a number of worrying aspects to it. The most important is that the law has not caught up with this sort of phenomenon.
It allows as you pointed out maize those with this power to target individuals, and so making it impossible for the information to be scrutinized for anything misleading or xenophobic or rascist etc.

MawBroon Sun 09-Apr-17 11:08:05

I am wary of sites such as Buzzfeed, The Canary and others, not because of their political stance but the way they have crossed over into self styled news providers. Not saying this instance is necessarily "fake news" but sites such as this arouse my suspicions.
The Canary (political blog)
The Canary is a left-wing political blog in the United Kingdom, which editor-in-chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza says is "here to disrupt the status quo of the UK and international journalism, by creating content that compels audiences to view the world differently".[1] While it focuses on UK political affairs, it also has a "Global" section, a satire section ("Off the Perch"), and "Science", "Environment", and "Health" sections.[2]

MaizieD Sun 09-Apr-17 15:53:44

I thought people might be wary of the Canary and hesitated to post it, but this is just what was being reported about the Trump campaign. And I think it was what Aaron Banks was doing with his Brexit campaign. Where was all tha money that he boasted of spending in contravention of pushing the boundaries of campaign funding rules actually going?

I don't see anything wrong in compelling audiences to view the world differently. Where would we all be now if everyone had exactly the same world view? All I need is that what is being reported is true. We know that the targeting which the Canary is describing is actually happening. It's been mentioned on other threads.

durhamjen Sun 09-Apr-17 16:27:24

If we don't believe sites such as The Canary, Buzzfeed, Skwawkbox, etc., where do we get this information from?
There's not a single MSM site or paper that will give this information.

At the moment there is a lot of information on Skwawkbox about the Unite election. Apparently Gerard Coyne has been sending requests for votes to Labour party members who are not in Unite to ask them to vote for him.
The names and addresses could only have come from Labour Party HQ. This is against the data protection act.
I haven't seen it in any online newspaper.

durhamjen Sun 09-Apr-17 16:48:25

Is this website acceptable?

durhamjen Sun 09-Apr-17 23:36:03

This is interesting. Apparently we trust official statistics, produced by the ONS, and trust the ONS itself, but we don't trust the politicians or newspapers that present the figures.
The differences in trust are quite startling.

daphnedill Mon 10-Apr-17 06:27:07

dj I don't know enough about where Gerard Coyne actually got his information, but it didn't necessarily come from Labour Party HQ. It could have come from the accounts of people who have "liked" Labour and/or Labour MPs on Facebook or Twitter. It's not illegal to use information in that way.

Cambridge Analytica, the company Arron Banks used to target potential Leave voters, acquired information in that way. They study people's online habits and target only those seen as potential voters. Trump did the same thing. They've even found ways of getting round spam filters and ad blockers.

Cindersdad Mon 10-Apr-17 07:27:40

Whether we like or not many people use Facebook, Twitter and even Gransnet to help inform their opinions. My feelings are that society different ways of getting information to a wider population. The problems with social media is that it provides a platform for the ranters and ravers to influence people and there is little or no check on the truthfulness of content.

Then again we know from mainstream media that content is edited to pitch "truth" to the views of the editor to influence readers sometimes to the detriment of society. My views are largely formed from the BBC, Personal Observations and gut feelings. I do read the daily Mail, the Metro and the "I". The latter being far more balanced. The Mail has to be taken with a large pinch of salt but sadly so many seem to take it as gospel. I don't really do Facebook or Twitter but it would appear that a significant sector of the populace relates to their content.

The conclusion has to be that no one sector of the media is reliable though the BBC and the "I" try to be more truthful. Inevitably as individuals being totally opened minded is difficult as we tend to agree with those who say what we think is right.

I admit that I am blinkered in the I am anti Brexit amd pro PR even if they are lost causes.

Abonet Mon 10-Apr-17 07:58:22

There used to be where one person with one viewpoint or a number of people, would slug it out against someone else with another view. Wish that happened a lot more often. Seems to have somewhat stopped, because each media outlet likes their somewhat biased stance.

MaizieD Mon 10-Apr-17 08:56:03

The worry I have is that because the message is targeted at individuals it is not available to anyone but them. All the media Cindersdad cites are available for anyone to read or watch so anyone can a) find out what a message is & b)give a counter argument if they so wish. That can't be done with the personalised messages on social media. Nothing can be challenged because only the recipient sees the 'message'

Does no-one else find this deeply worrying and anti democratic?

varian Mon 10-Apr-17 09:29:19

The Conservative party used targetted messages with great success in 2015, in particular aiming at those who had voted Liberal Democrat in 2010.

The message was hugely reinforced during the last week of the campaign after Nichola Sturgeon boasted "we will work with Labour to lock the tories out of Downing Street for ever". This was a gift to the Tories and caused an avalanche of undecideds to change to supporting the Tories.

I believe that if Sturgeon had not made that remark we would not have a majority Tory government, of brexit. The Tory campaign benefitted from very clever information systems and aparently unlimited funds.

MaizieD Mon 10-Apr-17 09:39:32

But did everyone know about those messages and what was being said in them, varian?

Or, to put it another way, would these messages have been freely available to read by anyone, not just the recipient?

Azie09 Mon 10-Apr-17 09:41:02

I wish I had a bit more time for this thread but I've just had an exchange and completion on the house so I'm inundated. shocksmile

I think it is an excellent issue to be discussing though MaizieD. Your last post is exactly what I worry about, the targeted delivery of messages which no one else can see, the appeal to the emotions, the anti democratic nature of it all.

I've only recently cottoned on to us being in the area of something called 'big data' meaning as I understand it, the collection of data about us with which those who have access to it can draw up profiles and use these to predict behaviour and market things to us but also influence our thinking and behaviour. In the hands of those intent on influencing elections, this is dynamite.

This is a good article, though I apologise, none of this makes easy reading!

And this one:

I am struggling to get to grips with what this means for us now but I feel it goes beyond whether news is real or fake (because that's a spectrum which has always existed tbh, what the Daily Telegraph chooses to headline and report will be different in content and flavour from The Guardian or the DM, especially the online DM) into the realms of deliberate misleading by careful choosing of content and audience. I've always been suspicious of the use of statistics but it seems that now, more than ever, they can be used to manipulate the masses.

There have always been subversive or alternative news outlets, now we all have access to them and are left, if we have the time and inclination, to try to figure out where 'truth' lies. Are we now living through an era like say, the Middle Ages and perhaps the Civil War period, where penny broadsheets were sold in the streets full of scandalous, seditious and untrue stories interspersed with snippets of real/true news?

It feels to me like a moment of 'if you can keep your head while all about you, are losing theirs and blaming it on you'....!!

durhamjen Mon 10-Apr-17 09:41:31

Daphne, there is someone who used a particular email address for signing up to support Owen Smith, and only for that. DPA says you have to give permission to be contacted, and he didn't.

durhamjen Mon 10-Apr-17 09:44:03

durhamjen Mon 10-Apr-17 09:45:32

Coyne knew he was doing something wrong, but said it had been finished, although he is still sending out emails.

durhamjen Mon 10-Apr-17 09:46:40

"Last Sunday, Gerard Coyne admitted breaching the Data Protection Act (DPA) to John Pienaar, live on a national BBC radio broadcast. He didn’t call it that, but it doesn’t change the admission – he claimed his campaign’s use of Labour data had been ‘agreed’ and that it had ‘concluded’.

That was clearly untrue, as emails were going out the next day to Labour members who have never been members of Unite. And the day after that. "

varian Mon 10-Apr-17 11:01:42

Maizie you asked whether everyone knew about these messages from the Tory campaign. I can tell you that they were targetted. We did not receive them as we were known to be LibDem activists who were unlikely to be persuaded. I believe that anyone with strong pro-Labour opinions would not have received them. The main targets were 2010 LibDem voters who were not activists, and undecideds.

Whether they were able to identify people with anti-Scottish attitudes, I cannot say. The message to people who were already inclined to vote Conservative may have been differently worded to reinforce their intentions.

This, I think, applied to leafletting as well as electronic communications and how the expenditure can ever be policed must be problematic, to say the least.

durhamjen Mon 10-Apr-17 11:37:47

That's why Arron Banks is laughing at the electoral commission. Obviously a government which benefits from the commission's inability to police the system is not going to put additional resources into it.

daphnedill Mon 10-Apr-17 11:43:30

dj I hadn't realised that and I agree it seems wrong. I wonder what the "agreement" was.

I keep getting emails from Momentum, even though I have never joined. I did join the Labour Party very briefly on the £3 deal, so that can be the only source of data. Did Momentum breach the DPA too?

durhamjen Mon 10-Apr-17 11:56:18

I don't think so, because on the £3 deal, you agreed to it using your data. If you get an email from Momentum you can unsubscribe.
The thing is that for a union election it should only be possible to send emails to members of that particular union. Lots of other people have been asked to join Unite to get rid of McCluskey.
I have also noticed that an MP has joined Unite saying she is unwaged and asked others to join using the same method. Illegal, too.
We would not know about these happenings if it wasn't for social media, as opposed to MSM.

durhamjen Mon 10-Apr-17 12:05:12

daphnedill Mon 10-Apr-17 13:14:24

But Momentum is not even affiliated to the Labour Party. They're supposed to be two separate organisations,so it shouldn't have had my details. I can't say they bother me that much, because I just delete them.

We might not know about what's happening with the Unite election, but there's been loads in the MSM about the use of Big Data and analytics.