This is a case where microtargeting the boss hopefully cost them their job. This is completely unethical.
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.
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 ...
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.
This is really a chain of command problem rather than specifically an advertisement problem.
I think that regulation forcing advertising platforms to be more transparent about who is buying adverts will help.
This time the goal was to discredit someone.
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.
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.
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.
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 
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
That might be pushing it a bit. We're talking Jeremy Corbyn here, not Amadeo Bordiga https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-leftism
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 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.
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.)
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.
The endgame of this notion is politicians promising each constituent exactly what they want to hear and concealing what they don't.
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.
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.
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.
The persoinal targeting provided by FB and the like makes it an entirely different beast from past experiences.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Solution: run ad blockers and noscript while they're still legal. Install them on all family members devices.
Every day I keep finding new reasons to use it, while I remain utterly unconvinced by any argument why not to.
The feasible subversion of democracy is pretty frightening.
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.
It's actually very simple: ban politics from social media.
Not that it's going to happen.
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)
EDIT: Oof, tough croud.
Usually the candidate is in on it. Remarkably, Corbyn isn’t or wasn’t so they had to pull this stunt.
Someone should be going to jail for this.
”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.
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.
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.
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.
As the above comment correctly points out this story offers no evidence that #1 is taking place.
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
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) 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"This ad targeting filters: 'white, male, xenophobe', paid for by Russian government"
"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.
Other than that it's profoundly dishonest, and one has to wonder who they consider as their true enemy.
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.
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.
Even the idea of that ads can be targeted this tightly isn't common knowledge outside of technical circles.
Edit: it’s a serious question. He may have a presence but is it actually him?