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Labour HQ used Facebook ads to deceive Jeremy Corbyn during election campaign (thetimes.co.uk)
305 points by stevemoy 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 146 comments



Wow. We've seen people microtarget leaders and CEOs with ads on Facebook to get a job.

http://twicsy-blog.tumblr.com/post/174063770074/how-i-target...

This is a case where microtargeting the boss hopefully cost them their job. This is completely unethical.


The financial journalist Martin Lewis is currently suing Facebook, because fraudsters are using his name and image to promote their schemes through Facebook advertising. The targeted nature of Facebook advertising makes it impossible to audit - there's no way of viewing all the ads being served on the platform. Lewis has been relying on members of the public to send him screenshots when these adverts appear in their feeds.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-43857921


I don't disagree, per se, but it's interesting that we have no problem with leaders of corporations personalizing ads for individuals while we are bothered when the position is reversed.


More than anything I think it's a more tangible argument for how microtargeting can go south. Most people are ok with the concept of advertising in general, and microtargeting feels like a small step from normal ads. "Yeah I get it, people want to sell me shit, what's the big deal?" This is the big deal.

Advertising's purpose is to infect your mind and trick it into thinking what the ad-buyer wants. In the past it wasn't as big of a deal, advertisers are less likely to use direct lies or manipulations if the audience is big: they can get backlash, some tricks have the opposite effect on some people, etc. Now that they can target individuals every trick in the book is fair game.

Now, if you talk to someone about these problems, they'll usually say something like "oh well it might affect other people, but ads don't affect me." Or "why would they care that much about me?" Guess what, if a politician can be be targeted and manipulated, a disgruntled coworker can target you, your ex can target you.


> This is the big deal.

I'd argue that the whole modern western political system came out of advertising (as first allowed by the printing press). That was a big deal ...


I wouldn't say no problem, but it's a question of intent.

If a corporation microtargets an ad at me to let me know they have a product they believe I will like, that's a little creepy, but it might even be helpful. Maybe I'm in the market for a new backpack; maybe a company I've had a positive experience with before has just released a new model I might like. If they target an ad at me about their new backpack, and I buy it, that's arguably helpful for both of us...and at a minimum it's not deceptive. They're not trying to mislead me into thinking they have a backpack I might want, they're trying to ensure that I know the true fact that they have a backpack I might want. (False advertising is a legit issue, but it's also already illegal, already pretty well regulated, and not what we're talking about here.)

Similarly, an individual using ads to try and get hired is again trying to convey a specific message to a specific person using an unusual medium. The message, in this case, being "I'm cool, you should hire me", which is the same message every job applicant sends when they email their CV in. The message is fine, and the medium is merely novel; no big deal.

What we're talking about in this case is outright deception. Labour staff (allegedly) microtargeted ads to present a false perception; this is more like Uber's Greyball program than it is standard adtech. And, notably, the message wouldn't have been fine if delivered in some other medium. If Labour HQ had prepared a falsified spreadsheet of ad buys, and emailed that to Corbyn, that would be just as bad.


I think awareness is what makes that comparison not work. There's a reasonable expectation when you see a facebook ad that you're trying to be swayed (could be argued in itself I guess, that's a different discussion), but Corbyn in this case was entirely unaware that he was being duped.

This is really a chain of command problem rather than specifically an advertisement problem.


I think people do have ethical issues and worries with that too. Advertising is regulated in the UK for this reason. Whether this regulation is sufficent and effective online is a discussion that has been happening a lot recently especially in context of US and UK elections.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising_Standards_Author...

I think that regulation forcing advertising platforms to be more transparent about who is buying adverts will help.


The goal is the problem. The leaders of the corporations try to convince you to waste your money or time.

This time the goal was to discredit someone.


The goal was to satisfy the boss that suggestions they didn't think would work were being carried out whilst spending the bulk of their ad budget on things they thought would work out.

It's far closer to the case where workers send a board they think is clueless a link to some boilerplate code as the requested "blockchain" whilst continuing to implement the Postgres solution they're pretty convinced will work.


Political parties are not companies though. The workers in your example will eventually be held responsible if their preferred solution fails even though they might not get the credit if it succeeds. In Corbyn’s case, as the Labour leader, he has to stand behind the messages disseminated under his leadership with his name. Any positive impact on votes by the wider campaign will likely result in voter deception, since Corbyn will believe his message is what worked.

The most worrisome issue here is that Corbyn’s goals don’t align with his subordinates, yes, but deceiving a political leader isn’t just about that leader but the voters as well.


This reminds me of the guy who (claims to have) pranked his roommate with targeted Facebook ads: http://ghostinfluence.com/the-ultimate-retaliation-pranking-...


I would assume it's also possibly illegal? They took 5000 pounds and spent it in a way that was clearly unauthorized. Seems like misappropriation to me.


The £5000 was part of a much larger sum allocated for targeted Facebook ads, and they had authority to place these ads. What they did was certainly dishonest and should cost them their job, but it's hardly illegal to use the wrong targeting rules.


[flagged]


I would expect it's easy to make the case of misappropriation when directing the money to an unauthorized advertising campaign; or to an authorized campaign, but for a different, unauthorized product.

It's a lot harder to make that case here, with campaigns using unexpected copywritting and targeting, both of which were at the liberty of the people running the campaigns. Selecting those was literally their job and given the massive Labour gains, it's hard to argue they failed at it.

It's clearly a case of internal insubordination and disciplinary action - which I'm sure the perpetrators were expecting, but deemed them an acceptable sacrifice to protect the party from what they seen as the bumbling fools running it.


Just another example on why marketing and advertisement is a scourge upon society, it is far to easy to manipulate from the background without oversight or any ethical or moral considerations and is known to be highly effective at making people act against even their own self interests.


Advertisement is also a way to buy support in the media. For example, in the aftermath of the oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico, BP showered money on TV and magazines. The real reason they did that was to tone down the coverage, especially in a moment where TV was deeply in need of advertisement money due to the big depression of 2008.


Also case in point with Facebook's current PR campaign trying to soften the blow for their recent fallout. It's said that these adverts are placed with the threat to pull them if any unfavourable articles are published.


My point exactly. Advertising is unethical/immoral, plain and simple.


What if you are advertising to raise money/awareness for the poor/in-need? Is that unethical/immoral?


Depending how the advertising is done - yes. Many campaigns that advertise for what are sometimes great causes rely heavily on emotional manipulation in their advertisements. Try watching just 10 seconds of this ad and tell me it isn't meant to be emotionally manipulative [0]. Or this other UNICEF advertisement [1] which is amazingly well made - but also very emotionally manipulative.

In my eyes - the only morally decent advertisement are advertisements that are solely education of a product or service you may need exists. Such as a boring infomercial without the manipulative sense of urgency "buy now and receive blah blah blah". But because these ads aren't manipulative of the human psyche, they would be terrible at driving sales to the product/service especially when competing with advertisements that are manipulative. Which is why nobody makes ads like that - they all rely on manipulation.

Advertisements, for centuries, have been a competition to see who is best at manipulating the human psyche - and I find that repugnant and immoral no matter the reason for doing so. Many advertisements today aren't to improve your life, but to fix flaws that don't actually exist but the company needs you to think they do exist so that you'll buy their "solution" to the often non-existent or heavily exaggerated problem. The best companies do this in subtle ways that many people don't realize. Memorable jingles, catchy slogans, smiling, happy, attractive people.

What are you waiting for? Choose happiness [2]

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEtYsKCWnME

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEtI-MzRwkM

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1veWbLpGa78


If you were to ask Kant, yes.

Assuming he'd agree that advertising was immoral, which he arguably would as advertising manipulates people in a way that might not be in their best interests, thereby using them as means and not as ends in and of themselves.

It's an interesting case though as merely informing people is not immoral, far from it, you have a moral duty to spread information that you think would help others. The problem with advertising is that it's not furthering other people's goals, but instead uses them as means to further the advertisers goals, which violates Kant's principles.


You’re just arguing from Kant’s authority here. In my view (and in the views of many others, including many renowned philosophers and many important legal systems) Kant’s views are deeply flawed (anyone can argue from some authority). But this is my view because there are many situations in which otherwise ‘bad’ actions may be easily justified. Sure, ethics is currently a matter of opinion, but I think the fact that some opinions on ethics are more easily lambasted than others suggests that their quality differs. And yours is certainly a minority opinion, a good thing in my view.


Wow, a left-of-center party more worried about change from within than they are about losing the election to the right. What a bizarre and unprecedented thing. Thankfully that could never happen in my home country, the USA.


It helps that you do not have a real left-of-center party to begin with.


I presume the GP was being sarcastic and referred to Clinton vs Sanders.


[flagged]


Could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News?


Democrats turned hard left, recently. Sure, on banal stuff like identity politics while keeping ties with Goldman Sachs & co.


Labour is a party that since the Kinnock purges of the 1980s only retained a rump of what could be described as `left-wing` and a majority that whole-heartedly embraced neo-liberal economics.

Since the democratic upheaval within Labour (resulting from hundreds of thousands of people joining) this Blair/Brown appartus is being ousted -- and that`s why they are doing these sorts of things. They hate and fear socialist policies, even the watered-down ones advocated by Corbyn and McDonnell.

There`s no point in winning an election if you become right-wing to do it.


> Wow, a left-of-center party more worried about change from within than they are about losing the election to the right.

Being honorless to their ideals is actually something Social Democrats have a proven history - the German ones for example allowed the war bonds prior to WW1, prior to WW2 the SD leadership lacked the guts to oppose Hitler ("Preußenschlag", and a total underestimation of Hitler in the last months until the Machtergreifung), and modern Social Democrats went full scale neoliberal (most famously they gutted social security with the Hartz IV reforms). As a result, the neo-nazis of the AfD are the second most powerful party in both federal and bavarian polls, sharing the position with the Social Democrats...


Ha ha ha... oh.


So they ran ultra left wing ads micro targeted at Corbyn and similar supporters so these people thought everyone was seeing them. I really wonder if micro targeting should just be switched off for everyone during political campaigns. It allows political parties to do exactly this, be literally all things to all people rather than genuine in their messaging.

How can we educate people this is happening? I’m certain it’s hugely effective and undermines democracy in a way newspapers or TV could never have dreamed of.


Switching off microtargeting is a really interesting idea.

I'd also love to see more disclosure. At least, "Why am I seeing this?" and "Who else is seeing this?" reports. But hopefully a full public dump of who's pushing what messages to whom.


This is also something that lends itself to regulation.

You can determine/define a minimum group size, and regulation that prohibits finer-grained targeting.

This is something that happens in many other fields, for example to prevent insurance policies from becoming individualized cost-spreading (with front-loading) plus profit-margin.

(Or, should be happening. And this is one of the battles around regulation. When people see their costs skyrocketing, they should ask themselves whether that is the "cost of regulation", or rather the cost of its absence.)

It can become quite difficult to micromanage through regulation. Sometimes, that's necessary, e.g. with pollutants whose individual effects vary dramatically.

But sometimes, it's possible to observe boundaries beyond which negative effects become quite pronounced with escalating proclivity. You draw the line there, or a bit on the safe side, and say, "Thou shall not pass."

If people get the choice, as opposed to being dictated to, I think that they are going to find that in most domains, they don't want to be micro-targeted. And maybe, we will come up with laws and regulations to stop it -- or substantially hinder it, at least.

It can even feed into a healthy society. How will you ever learn of, and possibly experience, anything new and "out of your comfort zone", if you are constantly being algorithmically channeled back into it?


> This is also something that lends itself to regulation.

That may be the case in many countries, but in the US, the idea of restricting political speech is nearly universally prohibited. Looking at the history of related Supreme Court cases, I sincerely doubt a law like that would stand.


Giving the increasingly capital-friendly supreme court, it's hard to say. But we're talking a neutral restriction on all advertising, which is much more likely to pass a first amendment test.


That already exists. If you click the menu icon next to an ad on Facebook you can select "Why am I seeing this?". You can also see all the advertisers who have targeted you on https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences/.


It's kinda useless, though. They give you the most general of the targeting - all mine say stuff like "men in the United States" when they've clearly got additional very specific stuff enabled.


It's usually really precise IME (speaking as someone who does online ads and checks this all the time).


So, as an example, I just got an ad for a "personalized women's fashion" retailer (I'm male, and Facebook knows that for certain), that stated "You're seeing this ad because eShakti wants to reach people aged 23 to 56 who live or have recently been in the United States. This is information based on your Facebook profile and where you've connected to the Internet."

Now, I'm fairly certain that they're not casting that wide a net. Those filters may be in their targeting specs, but I can guarantee you there are more specific than that, especially as it started showing up after my wife went looking for women's dresses recently.


looking again, you're right. i think they nerfed the tool.


You were probably in a bucket...


Neither Google nor Facebook are going to give away that power so easily.


> ultra left wing ads

That might be pushing it a bit. We're talking Jeremy Corbyn here, not Amadeo Bordiga https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-leftism


If you can speak to me one on one and tell me why I should vote for you, and you convince me - then you deserve my vote. Microtargeting allows you to do that at scale.

If I care about a certain issue and you advertise to me in a way that matches up to the things I care about, and present ideas that I agree with, then you are campaigning correctly.

If a politician saw that I cared about the environment and argued for upholding the Paris agreement - that would not win my vote, because I don't think the Paris agreement is a good solution to that problem. In this case, they lose my vote.

If they see that I care about income inequality but tell me that they will solve it by taxing the rich, I don't agree with that either - so they lose my vote.

Microtargeting is a tool just like the newspaper op-ed or the campaign commercial or the stump speech. Banning it because people are using it well is like taking away the stairs because some people use wheelchairs.


What seems to constantly happen is that we are instead served up the porridge that’s specifically for us while we don’t see the whole picture and what all the other people have also been promised.

What I’m saying is that the narrative of a manifesto or even what a political party stands for is corrupted by being “all things to all people” in their messaging.


I don't think anyone has managed to pull this off, simply because social media is also a very effective way of broadcasting the fact that someone is trying to do so. People get pissed off when they think someone is trying to pull a fast one on them, and they feel smart when they think they've outwitted them, and both of those things make for effective viral content. This even happens when the claim isn't true; for instance, there's a perennial viral news hoax about the Washington Post running opposite headlines in Trump-supporting and Clinton-supporting areas that keeps popping up despite having a Snopes debunking.

If the social media networks clamp down on ordinary people's ability to spread political messages this might work. Which I guess could happen, given the pressure for them to do so.

(The Trump campaign seems to have sensibly not even tried this and just used micro-targetting as a way of reducing the cost of getting their message in front of the people who're interested in it. If people outside the target group saw their message organically, well, that was basically just free advertising.)


TFA is about abusing micro targeting to convince a group (in this case the Labour Leadership) of something that wasn’t true. I don’t see how you could have a more direct example of something you’re saying doesn’t exist.


TFA is about someone doing this to, what, probably a few dozen people? The more people you try a stunt like this on, the bigger the chance that one of the people receiving one message will talk to one of the people receiving the other message.


Is there any example of this? In American politics and British politics (where much of the current drama stems from), the issues and candidates are promising opposite things in many ways.

Hillary Clinton was not promising the return of coal jobs. Donald Trump was not promising a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Jeremy Corbyn was not promising leaving the EU.

These were all very polarized issues and perspectives.

Yes in theory you can promise to be all things to all people but microtargeting is not happening in a vacuum, and it's unlikely that politicians will have success with promising contradicting binary things.


Donald Trump actually says contradictory things every 5 minutes in order to appeal as broadly as possible (and if you think the Super PACs aren’t running ads that are contradictory you’re plain wrong) and the article is about successfully conning a microtargeted group to believe something that wasn’t true. Facepalm.


To expand on @andy_ppp's point: how can you hold a politician responsible for the promises they make you, when no one else knows what those were?


You can do this over email too. Who's to say I don't delete the email? If I keep the mail I can probably keep a screenshot too.


> If you can speak to me one on one and tell me why I should vote for you, and you convince me - then you deserve my vote. Microtargeting allows you to do that at scale.

The endgame of this notion is politicians promising each constituent exactly what they want to hear and concealing what they don't.


The key word there is convince. Most replies to my post seem to think the act of making a promise means you have convinced the voter.

It seems very hypocritical to think that people are responsible enough to choose their elected officials while at the same time argue that they can't be trusted to make an informed decision because of a Facebook ad which promised them what they wanted.

If you microtarget me and your opponent microtargets me, how am I going to be convinced by you? This is an adversarial process.


If a person was to go round your office saying subtly different things to everyone in the hope of making friends and ending up in charge, would you think that was fair or would it make them a creep?


I'd think the people who put him in charge did it to themselves.


You're dodging the question. Is this person trustworthy?


This is a deep threat to the founding values of representative government, worthy of reflection.

Problem: Politicians thrive on buying votes by targeting individual voters with tailored promises of government money spent in personally attractive ways.

Solution: Abolish the Welfare State, so there is nothing left to feed such promises.

Short of that, we shall have to accept the stench of special-interest politics rotting into individually targeted political ads, at all levels of government. At some point it is likely to turn totalitarian, because not only do you not control what "ads" you are fed but you also do not control what "news" you are fed -- and then you have no reliable, reasonable basis for any of your social, economical, or political actions.


Well, yes, a government that doesn't actually do anything for its citizens is likely to have less corruption. It's not much of a government, though.


Taking from some citizens via taxes to give to others via welfare programs is not the sole extent of government activities, one would hope. I suggest studying the nature and extent of constitutionally limited governments before Bismarck introduced the Welfare State as we know it.

My point is not that government is corrupt; it is that politicians under a Welfare State have increasingly corrupt and manipulative designs, and that the further these designs are enabled by information technology the closer we get to a totalitarian society.


I don't want a totalitarian society, but I also don't want to live in a world where the poor and the sick are left to die in the streets, and I reject the notion that there's no possible happy medium.


I think you completely missed the point of the article. Microtargeting was used to create a completely alternative view of around a single person. That's not "speaking to me one on one"; that's gaslighting.


[flagged]


I'm sure you have a point, but calling names and blaming is not the way to make it here. Please comment more substantively.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Btw, for all those who like to step in other aritcles about the concerns with social media, to tell us how it's just like TV was a few decades ago, this article shows why it absolutely is not.

The persoinal targeting provided by FB and the like makes it an entirely different beast from past experiences.


It's not like TV, it's like mail advertising, which was starting to get attention for its lack of transparency before the 2016 cycle got everyone hyper attuned to Facebook's issues.


> It's not like TV, it's like mail advertising

Exactly. Targeted advertising is the junk mail that stuffs your mailbox and the spam that stuffs your inbox (or would, without massive technical mitigations). It's not the ads you see in a magazine or while watching TV.


And also the telephone `robocall' e.g. the Canadian conservative party`s voter suppression attempts : https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/key-facts-in-canada-s-roboc...


This is disturbing for the following reasons: 1. It alerts us to the possibility of fake political adverts. Do I (hypothetically)see an ad purporting to be a Tory ad promising something that will damage me, placed by a non-Tory actor? 2. Are unknown actors placing adverts which cause discord and dislike? 3. How do we solve this problem? Where FB is not regulated it will be impossible to knowingly audit the materials on its platform. 4. Given FB’s lobbying power, is regulation even possible?


Fake advertising for the purpose of creating discord is as old as political advertising.

I had a friend run for state legislature in the 1990s, his opponent sent people around targeted neighborhoods passing out fake flyers for my friend's campaign. They used his name and photo, but attributed positions he did not hold to him.

I imagine before cheap printing, it was gossip. I'm sure it's been the case since democracy started.


People often suggest that the Internet is a problem in terms of disinformation, but I'd argue in many cases that the Internet actually helps.

In pre-Internet days, it was difficult to get someone's views in their own words, especially in real-time. All information was filtered through various sources before being passed onto the consumer. Now, it's straightforward to check their website, or their twitter, or their youtube.

This, of course, is not perfect and requires a root-of-trust involving Google and DNS, but I'd certainly take that tradeoff versus Guy On The Street asserting things.


It's called agree of misinformation because it's become increasingly easy to produce convincing fake footage.

It's entirely possible to fake a real-time video interview for instance using voice synthesis and mapping the face of your target upon your face. It's frighteningly convincing.

I.e. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AmUC4m6w1wo


I don't think that footage is frighteningly convincing.

It's pretty good, but not difficult to tell that it's not real. The bridge between pretty good and perfect when doing this type of thing is a very, very difficult problem.

It also requires substantial amounts of high quality, up close footage of the person. This may be work for major politicans, but is much more difficult for the vast majority of people.

I don't disagree that it will become more of a problem in the future, and in many cases "pretty good" will be sufficient, but I think people are overstating how much of a problem it will be.


It's frightening because this is a the work if students with consumer hardware.

Video material can be produced at will if a wealthy nation or corporatiom wants it and the model will be significantly better if they train it on specialized hardware.

I don't think that the average person has to worry about his face being stolen. I think that it's possible to produce extremely good footage if somebody is sufficiently motivated to fund a smear campaign. It won't hold up in court, but it doesn't have to either.


Exactly. This is a Facebook and ad tech problem, not an "Internet" problem.

Solution: run ad blockers and noscript while they're still legal. Install them on all family members devices.


> How do we solve this problem?

Adblock.

Every day I keep finding new reasons to use it, while I remain utterly unconvinced by any argument why not to.


This is why I left Facebook.

The feasible subversion of democracy is pretty frightening.


Isn't it more an argument that you should ensure that you ensure information you act on comes from credible sources.

Subversion and deception are everywhere online now and we live in a perpetual psy-ops nightmare.

By which I mean leaving facebook is a start, but there's a lot more to protecting yourself against false information.


Thank goodness for adblockers :)


> 3. How do we solve this problem

It's actually very simple: ban politics from social media. Not that it's going to happen.


The solution is to ban political advertising on the internet.


https://www.facebook.com/rsaeventsofficial/videos/1986125631...

The authors of the book mentioned in The Times article did a speech/interview at the RSA on Thursday, video above.

I don't use Facebook and therefore can't log in, but I would imagine that Corbyn was aware of the campaign's general impact through wider relationships (trade unions, Momentum, family members, sparring partners in Parliament &c)


Next you'll have morning tv shows specifically targeting world leaders who watch them.


If you want to get meta, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight has bought ads during Fox And Friends to counter the show’s influence on the president.

http://thehill.com/homenews/media/360076-john-oliver-to-snea...

EDIT: Oof, tough croud.


[flagged]


Gorillions of dollars, I’m sure!


This may be the second most cyberpunk thing to happen in the past short while, after the rise of virtual reality being impeded by people buying all the video cards to pan for virtual gold of course.


This pretty interesting, not only did his campaign fool him, they fooled the people voting for Corbyn —they made him appear more centrist than he actually was for, they feared, if they broadcast his real intended message to all, it might have turned voters away from his views.


One could very plausibly argue that the second point (making the candidate more electable / centrist) has been the entire point of political campaigning since the ancient Greeks. Politicians have been lying to voters (or more charitably, putting their best foot forward) since the very beginning of democracy.

Usually the candidate is in on it. Remarkably, Corbyn isn’t or wasn’t so they had to pull this stunt.


That`s one of the really interesting questions in this. But if you look at polls on the policies which were supposedly so left wing they would turn away voters then another conclusion can be reached: namely that Corbyn`s left-wing policies are more in tune with the electorate and that this sabotage by HQ may have cost Labour the last election.

Someone should be going to jail for this.


Yet another example of why advertising is cancer and should be eradicated.


From the article:

”When the leader of a political party can be tricked in such fashion by his own officials, voters themselves stand little chance.”

This event does not support the conclusion that social media ads are effective at “tricking voters”. These ads weren’t even shown to voters. Employees simply microtargeted their boss to convince him that the ads were running.

The idea that social media ads are somehow effective at brainwashing people into switching sides has been a clickbait staple among journalists the last few years, but it is wholly unproven. If they want to sell this narrative, they’ll certainly need do it more convincingly than they did here.


I think it supports the conclusion very well. If you can microtarget ads at segments of voters, you can find a way to tell different types of people exactly what they want to hear. You can quite effectively prey on their fears and weaknesses, pit them against each other–divide and conquer.

Facebook has long promised more visibility for users into ads, and that would go a long way to fighting this kind of trickery ... if it ever materialises.


And what makes you think you know the personal fears and weaknesses of every single voter, or that you can trivially flip votes by making ads about them? After all, in theory politicians are actually meant to implement manifestos, and if they are telling everyone different messages that'll get picked up immediately once people start debating the election down their local drinking hole.

The idea that you can buy elections through advertising is a typical position of the left (and these days, by extension, of journalists). Recall the huge fuss Obama and the Democrats kicked up when campaign spending limits were removed by the Supreme Court? Obama was even talking about a constitutional amendment. Then Hillary outspent Trump 2:1 on advertising and still lost. They disproved their own thesis.


People don’t look to social media for content that changes their opinion. They look to it to confirm their already held opinions. It’s an echo chamber. Nobody is changing their opinion based on a random ad they see on Facebook.

The genesis of these articles - the media’s quest to explain how it failed to manipulate our Presiential election in favor of their chosen candidate - is also based on a false premise. Russian Facebook ads didn’t get Trump elected. The choice by Democrats to run a candidate against him that much of the country disliked did.


The downvoting of the above comment is ridiculous. There are two distinct issues: 1) ads may persuade voters to do X 2) the belief that everyone is seeing the same ads

As the above comment correctly points out this story offers no evidence that #1 is taking place.


Imagine if it was the post. The campaign managers could post far left pamphlets to Jeremy Corbyn's house and select journalists, and send mainstream ones to most houses. Would we see this as an error in the postal system, or simply another issue of dishonesty?


Could one microtarget NSA and DHS employees in this fashion?


So how exactly microtargetting works? They target his interests? Or just import emails and hope they match the ones they provided?


> micro-targeting Facebook adverts at the leader and his closest aides

I'm guessing they created a new target list by uploading enough peoples' email addresses to get past Facebook's minimum list length. I don't know how many that is but when I last had a look at it a couple years back the minimum was 20


I think they raised that limit recently, but again nothing prevents you from creating lots of fake profiles just to get past that limit, then targeting all those profiles + the real user you want to target.


Wait, what? You can target someone using their email address?



I believe that the majority of political microtargeting uses custom audiences. It's the way they assemble these lists that is really dodgy, and is the thing Cambridge Analytica is in trouble for.


We should open a new thread some day with all the hacks you can do to target people on FB.


I'm fascinated to see the apparently limitless efforts that both the media and his own party went to in order to brand Corbyn as an extreme and dangerous left winger and undermine his progress.

His policies were comparable to, and sometimes to the right of, those of the SDP. The SDP being the right of the Labour party who split in the 1980s and later merged with the Liberals to give today's LibDems.

He was more of the fringe in his youth. So were quite a lot of people, current politicians, even Blairites included. Peter Hain (anti-apartheid and gay rights) and David Blunkett (Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire[0]) spring to mind as having had far more activist and strident roots than Corbyn. Blunkett went on to be a Home Secretary the right of the Tory party would have been proud of.

Edit: Nowhere am I advocating his policies, why the downvotes?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_Republic_of_South_Yo...


Most of the Blairites had deep links to elite establishment institutions (think tanks, global nonprofits) and industry (media, PR, finance, etc.). That formed the mainstay of their power while Corbyn's power base was grass roots (e.g. Momentum), left wing activist networks and unions.

Ultimately it wasn't really about policy for the rebel MPs, it was about seeing the main source of their power undermined. There isn't much of a career left for the Blairites under Corbyn.

Lots of corporate groups allied with the PLP hate his policies though. Richard Branson with his rail franchise and attempts to set up an American style HMO is obviously no fan, for example.


You're entirely right, of course. It's the schadenfreude of watching everyone framing him as some sort of neo Trotskyite.

Blairites have little career under any leader until memories have faded and there's another tipping point like Black Monday that brought them in in the first place. Brexit looks like it could easily cause one of those, going on current negotiations, so perhaps they won't be waiting too long.


Corbyn branded himself as a radical leftwinger for most of his career, including when it suited him during his leadership campaign.

Nobody remotely familiar with Corbyn would attempt to characterise his views as "fringe in his youth" or compare him with Blunkett unless they were being deliberately disingenuous. We're talking about someone with a lifelong dedication to "anti-imperialist" foreign policy causes who could be found delivering speeches about the fine example set by Chavismo and supposed progressive credentials of Hamas to tiny fringe audiences throughout his 60s (he's now 69). The one thing his staunchest supporters and biggest detractors agree on is that he's been largely consistent in his stances.


Always an anti-imperialist and pacifist; but neither exactly unusual views on the left of centre.

That he met with Hamas is no different to his meetings with Adams and others of Sinn Fein years before. Both seem consistent with seeking peace. I could easily classify it as naive and unlikely to achieve much outside of government.

Then again, considering both Major era Tories and Blair era Labour including Mo Mowlam met Sinn Fein regularly and that ultimately led to the Good Friday Agreement, who knows if those meetings helped any.

No peace will come to Palestine without all parties reaching agreement and some resolution of Israel's illegal occupation and settlements. That has to start with someone meeting Hamas and Israel - though I doubt he could make a difference. I'm not sure I call the stop the war coalition a tiny fringe audience though.

Blunkett was far out on the loony left with Derek Hatton's Militant Liverpool. That Blunkett managed to reinvent himself as a right-wing Tory the moment he got a ministry perhaps shows that he didn't mellow through the years as go so far left as to reappear on the right. He's remained well to the right since leaving politics. I don't see anything disingenuous about the comparison or that his views are somewhat different now to then.


This article is the exact opposite of what you're claiming. Labour HQ was trying to make him appear less left wing than he is, by refusing to run the more extreme ads that he was demanding.


No, it isn't. It's quite well known that both party MP's and admin tried to make both his leadership and campaign difficult.

They chose to "refuse to run the more extreme ads" that were well within the bounds of moderate Labour policy of relatively recent years. With a manifesto that resonated pretty well with voters on most issues as it turned out yet didn't include several of Corbyn's actual well known fringe views such as unliatera disarmament as that went against agreed party policy. The manifesto is what counts.

Thus he's being treated as some dangerous extremist whose views can't even be let out in public during an election campaign. Views that, as put forward in the manifesto, are not actually that extreme. It's miles away from Foot's longest suicide note manifesto for example.


Unless you're claiming that they were refusing to run the most moderate ads, and would only run the more left wing ones, I still fail to see how this could be seen as them trying portray him as more left wing.


In the spirit of current split in dominance between neoliberals and the far right, labor-ish politicians are well left of the current establishment.


Here is a non-paywalled report on the same topic from another source: https://inews.co.uk/news/labour-staff-deceived-corbyn-facebo...


i think microtargetting criteria should be disclosed the same way as who paid for the ad, be it commercial or political, doesn't matter.

"This ad targeting filters: 'white, male, xenophobe', paid for by Russian government"


I think this actually already happens (at least the criteria part) for Facebook ads. I just went to Facebook and went to the "..." menu for one of the ads that showed up and clicked "Why am I seeing this?". It said this:

"You're seeing this ad because Freshly wants to reach people ages 18 and older who live or were recently in California. This is information based on your Facebook profile and where you've connected to the internet."

So my impression is that Facebook already allows you to see the exact targeting criteria that went into any ad that shows up. Maybe if this was more prominent, especially in cases where the filter seems suspiciously like microtargeting, the trick wouldn't have worked.


what makes you think white males are more likely to be xenophobes?


they are not saying that.


From a sporting (British?) point of view, it's a brilliant move.

Other than that it's profoundly dishonest, and one has to wonder who they consider as their true enemy.


Whoever down-voted this does not understand sports, nor the British love of sports and betting. Maybe read some P.G. Wodehouse to understand and lighten up.


Programming people seems to be the next frontier of programming.


We've been doing that for years with adtech!


Oh you are not so good...


crooks and con men have been doing as such long before digital computers.


Social engineering is more two sided. You are trying to get something out of these people, like something very concrete. This is more propaganda.


Propaganda also may try to get things out of people: consent, votes, etc.


Those people generally don't put it on their resumes, having Facebook on your resume is now something that makes it end up in the trash.


I disagree. I’m looking to recommend that a company I consult for hire an agency specifically and solely for their facebook advertising talents.


I am not the ultimate authority at my company but I get a small amount of input. And working at Facebook is an automatic pass now.


Hasn't social engineering always been a common aspect of hacking?


Absolutely. There's a difference in scale and intent, however. Probably simplifying here...

I think the hacking thing always had a bit more of a Robin Hood complex coupled with it. The lone renegades taking on powers and organizations much larger than themselves for entertainment, or acquiring status that they weren't otherwise bestowed.

This is powers using it to manipulate other powers, where the price is paid by the people 'Robin Hoods' were never originally out to exploit.


Paywall stops me from getting past the top. But, just wow.

If it accurately reflects what happened, well, they're going to have to designate a new category of shitstorm.

One that, I hope, sucks in FB and forces some true accounting and reckoning, not just of this circumstance but as a fundamental part of the platform and business practices.


In many instances, such as here, they don't make you verify an email sign up. Always worth a try. For grins I always make up an email address at the site's own domain.


huh we need a new version of the GDPR already it seems. Unfortunately it won't help Britain.


We don't need a new law. The schemers can be fired and rules can be written to guard against it.


what do you think a rule to guard against it is - in my world that's a law.


What do you think should it regulate that currently isn't?


Perhaps we should be regulating marketing? It clearly doesn't serve the public interest to allow micro-targeting at this level, particularly in political situations.


sorry didn't answer earlier, on vacation - but I don't think there is a provision that allows a company to sell access to profiles that end up micro targeting 1 individual or maybe a provision saying no sell of advertising can be written to target less than 100 people, only people employed by one employer, or in one location - location described as (some description that keeps you from targeting everyone in a particular building.)


I'm confused. Jeremy Corbyn could have clicked on the button "why do I see this ad" and find out he was targeted.


What makes you think that non-technical people would think to do that? It's not exactly common knowledge.

Even the idea of that ads can be targeted this tightly isn't common knowledge outside of technical circles.


He'd see that he was targeted as part of a custom audience, which is exactly what he'd expect, as I'd assume that that's what most of the Labour Party ads used.


Is Jeremy Corbin on Facebook?

Edit: it’s a serious question. He may have a presence but is it actually him?


Yes.


Is it he himself or aides, pr/comms people etc?


The article does say it's him and his close aides.




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