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440 points by JumpCrisscross 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 266 comments





My prediction after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke is that it would lead to an explosion in wealthy people who want to play at noopolitics.

I suspect they have dozens of CA's on their hands currently. At the very least, if not hundreds.

The key takeaway that some people will have had from Cambridge Analytica, is not 'they got caught, don't do this', but rather 'they were largely successful and incredibly cheap'.

The upshot from having lots of players in this space however, is not one of greater control by insidious power addicts, but rather a loss of control as the players compete for attention and influence. So, chaos in the news and the elimination of any kind of consistent narrative from on high. I think we have been experiencing this for a while now. In some ways it is almost an improvement.


My key takeaway of Cambridge Analytica was that the advertising industry is a lot more harmful than I thought. I always thought, that there is no real problem when some people influence/manipulate other people on what they spend their money on.

But now we see that those same instruments can be used to not only change shopping decisions but also democratic decisions, which is not okay in my opinion and should be prosecuted and be punished with severe penalties.

Otherwise, the whole point of democracy (one human, one vote) is useless, as the rich can simply buy ads to influence enough people to follow their goals.


This is why I left work in advertising. I could see the levels of psychological manipulation 30 years ago and knew with the future of data mining it was only going to get worse. There is nothing ethical about advertising. It's all about what you can get away with. Look at the history of subliminal advertising, though it never got so bad as to have laws enacted when the public became interested in it they realized the game was up and abandoned it.

The industry is full of tiny little battering rams like subliminal advertising. Each attempt yields success or failure, rinse and repeat. The refinement at this point is unfathomable.


Yeah, advertising is a field I also will no longer work in.

Manipulating people for money is ethically suspect. And the whole industry is an arms race: people spend money on advertising mainly because their competitors do.

If we banned all advertising tomorrow, consumers would still get about the same outcomes, especially now that the Internet makes it easy to find products and product information. Well, the same outcomes except they'd have circa an extra $1k/year in their pockets, and would spend a lot less time watching ads.


> If we banned all advertising tomorrow, consumers would still get about the same outcomes, especially now that the Internet makes it easy to find products and product information.

And if there's anything which recent history has shown conclusively beyond doubt, it's that people can be relied upon to give each other reliable and accurate information about people and products. Especially online.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_WhatsApp_lynchings

[2] https://www.vox.com/2018/7/19/17594156/whatsapp-limit-forwar...

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5489284/

[4] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/16/amazon-flooded-with-thousand...


Your apparent theory that online information only spreads through word of mouth is especially weird given that you prove it by linking to resources of known quality from media, academic, and non-profit sources.

That's surely what would happen if we banned advertising. One can already get plenty of great product information without advertising, and from the same kinds of sources you link.


I think it's dangerous to lump it all in together.

What if you're advertising the historical equivalent of a vacuum cleaner over a brush? A dishwasher over washing up liquid, a car over a carriage, a savings fund that invests ethically over one that doesn't, a cheaper, faster municipal broadband over a monopolistic inferior broadband, the examples are innumerable. A progressive political party over a corrupt incumbent?

I agree in general that advertising should be curtailed from the present level, but I don't agree that it's fundamentally unethical.

If you've got to rely on word of mouth, even with the internet, it will take a lot longer for good, useful products/ideas to spread.


Your notion that there is only advertising and word of mouth is obviously wrong. There already exist other channels. Journalism, for one. Experts blogging, for another. Conferences are a third. These are popular and useful today, and they would only become more so in a world without advertising. Likely new things would emerge as well.

If advertising were vital for learning about new products, nobody would use open source software. Nobody would use Hacker News for that matter. They do, which should tell you there's something wrong with your theory.


> Nobody would use Hacker News for that matter.

Hacker News is literally advertising / lead gen for YCombinator.


One, I rarely find it useful to discuss things with people who are in the habit of picking some nit, focusing on that, and ignoring the meat of my point, but I'll try one more reply. Two, per Upton Sinclair [1], I'm not sure it's worth discussing this with somebody who identifies as a marketer. And three, Hacker News is not advertising in the common sense of that term, which is paid placement of a message. If that is somehow confusing to you, I would like to see a ban for paid placement of messages, and not people doing something good for the public in hopes that people will like and pay attention to them.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/21810-it-is-difficult-to-ge...


> I would like to see a ban for paid placement of messages, and not people doing something good for the public in hopes that people will like and pay attention to them.

Apologies for yet again picking a nit, but PR doesn't involve paid placement of a message. Neither does lobbying, media relations, inbound marketing (Hacker News), messaging, positioning, or getting an intern to stand with a sandwich board through the street. You could run a coach and horses through that definition of advertising.


I have no idea why you have decided I have an issue with all marketing. But when I said advertising, I actually meant advertising. In case you are still unclear on what that is, Wikipedia explains it well: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising

I think there is a thin line between ethical advertising and unethical psychological manipulation. I think generally, people know that when they are watching an ad, they are being tricked a bit. I think as long as it’s obvious to the user that they are being advertised to, there shouldn’t be an issue. Cambridge Analytica data was used to manipulate people by them not being aware that they were basically watching an advertisement. Except in this case, the ad was a real time political movie in the same theatre as someone else but both people somehow came out watching a different version of the movie because of filtered and targeted manipulative ads. They did not know that the posts they were seeing on social media were supposed to be manipulative ads.

> I think there is a thin line between ethical advertising and unethical psychological manipulation.

That line runs between "let's think about this as an interesting thought experiment" and "let's do this!" - People can and are manipulated even when they know they are being advertised. That has been shown time and time again. Advertising is psychological manipulation with another name.


Sure. My following question would be how do we then differentiate between healthy advertising an unhealthy one?

We can't abandon and block ads completely. If we did that, we wouldn't even get to be aware of products which might really make our lives better. How do we figure out the healthy balance out? I would argue that the current laws around advertising are pretty decent but they could be made better and adapted for social media platforms.


It's questionable whether Cambridge Analytica actually succeeded in changing many votes. And even counting that targeted advertising, the losing side in the 2016 presidential election spent far more in ads. So apparently ads aren't that effective.

The Electoral College is what really violates the principle of "one human, one vote".


> It's questionable whether Cambridge Analytica actually succeeded in changing many votes.

Changing a vote is hard. They only needed to make someone vote (or not) to make a difference, which is much easier to achieve


CA behavior doesn't have to be connected to specific votes in order to have been harmful. There is a constellation of operators behind the name "Cambridge Analytica," and almost all of them still have jobs doing what they were doing three years ago. NBD?

>The Electoral College is what really violates the principle of "one human, one vote".

No it really does not if you understand what a Republic of States is. We are the United States of America. A republic of states. Not "America the great democracy" like people seem to want it to become.

A federalist nation of independent states is what the constitution created, and what we should be protecting. There are many things that would improve our elections (Wyoming Rule, No Gerrymandering, Proportional Electoral College, Instant Run Off Voting, and returning the Senate to the States just to name a few) but a national popular vote for President is a TERRIBLE idea, and would rip this nation apart and in the long run likely result in another civil war.


Oh I fully understand the Federalist argument however the Electoral College has outlived its usefulness. Times change. The notion that eliminating it would cause another civil war is ludicrous.

How has it outlived its Usefulness

let me Guess you live in CA, NY, or Texas?

Because with out the Electoral College, the rest of the states do not matter.. the Elections will be decided by about 5 states in the union, the very thing the Electoral College was designed to prevent and is every much just as relevant today as it was when there were only 13 colonies

As to civil war.... You do understand that most of the private guns in this nation are in the Red States, and currently if National popular vote is enacted the Blue States will effectively control government at the national level (which is most likely why you support it, chances are you are a democrat and are tried of the Republicans having any power so if NY and CA can control the nation that would be grand for you) . Which will most likely mean extreme pushes to the Authoritarian left including Draconian gun control laws and seizures... Which will bring about all out civil war

//For the Record I an neither R or D, I am small L libertarian.


> Because with out the Electoral College, the rest of the states do not matter.. the Elections will be decided by about 5 states in the union

This doesn't really make sense: without the Electoral College, states as entities don't decide anything. You could say the people in five states will decide the (presidential) election, but there's nothing special about them other than population density. A vote in California would be exactly the same as a vote in Wyoming.

> if National popular vote is enacted the Blue States will effectively control government at the national level

Do the Legislative and Judicial branches not exist? Eliminating the Electoral College has no effect on the former whatsoever, and it affects the latter only insofar as the Legislative branch fails to be a check on the Executive for the purpose of nominating judges.

True, Democrats would have an edge in presidential elections — but only because the general population leans Democratic. If Republicans want to win elections, maybe they should have to convince more people to support them, rather than essentially gerrymandering the presidency with a system that divides the country up into arbitrary districts and allocates votes thereto?


>Do the Legislative and Judicial branches not exist?

Not really no, not as a check on power anymore anyway

Congress has given most of their authority to the Administrative State via vague open ended laws that are more complex than a Tolstoy novel that allows the same law to "mean" opposite things when used against the citizens by the Administrative state

The Judaical Branch has stopped following the constitution as written instead injecting "world opinion" and other non-sense into their decisions

>Eliminating the Electoral College has no effect on the former whatsoever, and it affects the latter only insofar as the Legislative branch fails to be a check on the Executive for the purpose of nominating judges.

False and False. The President has all kinds of power today over both, the president should not but eliminating the Electoral Collage will make that situation worse not better as it is often the Democrats that give power to the Executive then bitch when republicans use that power when a republican is elected. Most of the powers Trump is using today where given to the President by Democrat controlled congresses

>You could say the people in five states will decide the (presidential) election

Thank you Captain Nit Pick, it is clear that is what I meant from the context of the conversation

> but there's nothing special about them other than population density.

That is what is "special" about them, Urban area's have different needs and politics that Rural area's and Urban area's should not be allowed to disenfranchise rural area's which is exactly that you are advocating for.

Might as well just end the very concept of Statehood, elminiate states all together and just have 1 National Government with zero state governments. I am sure you would be fine with that as well.

We are a federalist nation for a reason, and today with the Electoral Collage a vote in CA means exactly the same as a Vote in WY. Each state chooses who they want to to be President, then if that person whens the approval of enough STATES they become president. National Popular vote eliminates the Federalist style of national government.


> today with the Electoral Collage a vote in CA means exactly the same as a Vote in WY.

Depending on party. In California, which is reliably Democratic in presidential elections, a Democrat vote counts and a Republican vote doesn't. In Wyoming, which is reliably Republican in presidential elections, a Republican vote counts and a Democrat vote doesn't. Thus, the same vote means exactly the opposite in California as in Wyoming.


No, if the national popular vote is enacted, the majority opinion among citizens will control the government at the national level. States will have nothing to do with it, that's the point of a popular vote.

It baffles me that many Americans are ok with the current rule-by-simpsons-paradox that we have.

Because of the electoral college, combined with the cap on the size of the house, less populous states are overrepresented in the house, Senate, and presidency. That's not what the founders intended, and it's a mistake that should be corrected.


Clearly you did not read my original post, as I am not opposed to reforms I am opposed to eliminating the Electoral College

Better reforms include

* Enacting the Wyoming Rule

* Eliminating Gerrymandering, I want to use the other non political division to choose congressional districts. Counties, Postal Codes, Phone Area Codes something else

* Proportional Electoral College: Each Congressional District will vote for the President instead of Each State

* Instant Run Off Voting: First past the post needs to end.

* returning the Senate to the States

These are just a few reforms that I support


Yep, the left narrative around the Electoral College seems dangerous to me as well.

I think any argument against the Electoral College has to also include an argument against the Senate. Or is two senators/state acceptable?

The founding fathers clearly considered the effects of having large population centers and attempted to account for it in the House.

A system with no representation for the smaller states would lead to exactly the same scenario that caused the U.S. to be founded. Popular vote would always decide in favor of urban centers and rural citizens would be neglected yet expected to pay taxes.


That's...not what led to the US being founded. The cries were "no taxation without representation", not "no taxation without over representation" for a reason. Subjects in the US has no representation in the British parliament, not approximately the number they should have given population, but none. If they had, about 25% of the house of commons would have been US elected representatives, none were.

Please don't rewrite history to support your political opinions.


My argument made an appeal to the emotional state behind both situations.

> Popular vote would always decide in favor of urban centers and rural citizens would be neglected yet expected to pay taxes.

The point is that disenfranchisement of a large group of people would lead them to seek action against the government. You could pick the Civil Rights Movement if you think the Revolution doesn't fit the bill for some reason.


> My argument made an appeal to the emotional state behind both situations.

Yes and my point is that the comparison isn't apt.

> The point is that disenfranchisement of a large group of people would lead them to seek action against the government.

You mean like how those in urban centers are disenfranchised under the current system? "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression" seems to apply.


The cries where far most than just taxation, this idea that taxation and taxation alone was the sole reason we violently rebelled agaist the Britsh empire shows a complete lack of understanding of American History.

Taxation was a reason, but even just a basic reading of the Declaration of Independence shows there are "a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism"

As such it was "their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security"


Yes, the main issue was a complete lack of political representation.

I don't think I said anything about the sole reason being taxation. What I said was that limited political representation was not the issue, a complete absence was. I'm glad we agree on that.


Personally, I think far more important than having or removing the electoral college is getting rid of the notion that it matters who is president. Our country makes the president a king. I think it's time we switch our tax structure around to make states fucking rich and make the federal system more of a communication network for the states. States would collect taxes only, and donate to the feds for a national military. The donation amount is optional.

That's why the US Congress has two chambers, House and Senate.

As in other federal countries, it makes sense to elect one purely by popular vote, the other by giving each state equal representation.

To pass a law, you'd then need 50% of people and 50% of states to support it.

This is a simpler system for elections, and keeps the power of people and states more balanced.

e.g. Germany uses a very similar system (Bundestag being elected by popular vote, Bundesrat being chosen by each state).


It used to have then we ratified the 17th amendment which turned the Senate way from being representative of the State, and turned it into a second "peoples house"

>As to civil war.... You do understand that most of the private guns in this nation are in the Red States

Given the amount of guns in general circulation, I am not sure this calculus really matters. There is kind of a limit to how many guns you can hold at once.


>But now we see that those same instruments can be used to not only change shopping decisions but also democratic decisions

Did we really not know that prior to 2016?


> Did we really not know that prior to 2016?

Did we really not know prior to Snowden that the NSA, GCHQ and all the others spied on the populace? There's a market difference between knowing in the abstract and understanding it as "this is happening. Right now. Here."


I agree with your abstract vs concrete analogy. We knew bits and pieces from cases like Jewel v NSA[0] but not things like modifying things on the wire to insert malware, or kneecapping standards.

But conversely, it was well that Obama used data analytics to enhance his campaign[1], using techniques extremely similar to Cambridge Analytica's[2].

The important difference being users of the Obama for America app opted into sharing their data for political purposes, whereas CA claimed to be a personality quiz to secretly harvest data for political purposes.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewel_v._NSA [1] https://www.technologyreview.com/s/509026/how-obamas-team-us... [2] https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/mar...


The problem with this theory is that Cambridge Analytica is infamously associated with an election where the monetary underdog vastly overperformed.

Then you might be interested in this book: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Engineering_of_Consent

The advertising industry comes from war propaganda from what I understand. So using advertising to sell goods is actually much more recent than using these methods to manipulate political views...


I’d be more concerned about the effects on the journalism sector. Suddenly they can target worldwide the public perception of everything. It’s the most detailed and effective propaganda machine ever built.

You can think of language barriers as firewalls for this virus, and translation and localization as the ICE breakers.

I always knew it was harmful. The problem is what Cambridge ultimately did. People shouldn't be able to shutter companies and transfer wealth just to avoid civil and criminal liability.

Thats kind of silicon valleys whole MO though...

In the US the rich buy ads to influence enough people to follow their goals. I never really understood how this is a good thing for democracy.

> My key takeaway of Cambridge Analytica was that the advertising industry is a lot more harmful than I thought. I always thought, that there is no real problem when some people influence/manipulate other people on what they spend their money on.

If this kind of advertising is able to make people act against their own interest to the level claimed with this political meddling, how is this somehow more acceptable on an economic level which directly impacts individuals?

At least for most people the consequences of the election are more distant, whereas if people are tricked into making poor purchasing decisions they could be looking at directly losing hundreds or thousands of dollars. Certainly a large amount over their lifetime.

I can't see how this is any better, and I personally think it's worse. Is the only justification that poor purchasing decisions directly impacts the easily influenced people (one could unpleasantly spin it as getting what they deserve), whereas political decisions hit everyone?


Because on "regular" advertising business you can protect yourself or stay away from them. In an election there is no way to protect yourself since the majority decides.

(Not saying I completely buys this, but there is a major difference here).


The recurring theme of politicians advocating restrictions of voting to land owners (even to this day) says a lot about what some people think democracy means. It's depressing even before you get to the idea of buying the votes of the people who can still vote, or using gerrymandering to make their votes not count

To demand a stake of investment in order to incur privlidge is one thing but rights are another. It still seems beneficial to listen to those with 'skin in the game' so to speak, but how to balance that with greater social good requires the assumption that most people are a net social positive, which many optimists struggle with. Its a tricky problem with no clear answers unless you cling to some dogma.

Any power is prone to corruption. If people don't want democracy, how do you make them want it?

historically all democracies deteriorate towards non-existence over time. it's just a matter of how long for particular cases

>Otherwise, the whole point of democracy (one human, one vote) is useless, as the rich can simply buy ads to influence enough people to follow their goals.

As they've always done through the media? The hardest thing to swallow, for some people, is that democracy is deeply flawed, and these things openly show it. Until now they've been free to ignore it.


> As they've always done through the media? The hardest thing to swallow, for some people, is that these things show very openly how democracy is deeply flawed.

If you study a bit of History, or look beyond the western world, you will see how terrible the alternatives are. And you will see that democracy is something worth fighting for. Democracy is not flawed, it is hard. We have to fight for it, and the next generations will have to fight for it, and so on. It's real life.

I haven't resigned myself to living in a Black Mirror episode.


Truth: Democracy has dependencies. Just (fair) access to education and opportunity is absolutely necessary for democracy to function.

As early as Athenian democracy the dependencies had been identified as comprehensive education, quality information, and time to debate.

And the will to uphold democracy in the first place.

interesting.

got a link or reference? would love to read more


I might be misremembering but I think I heard that in a speech by John Ralston Saul. Sorry I can’t remember anything more specific!

Democracy is very very flawed, that is why the US is not a democracy, why at every level of government there are checks put in place to put in road blocks to democracy.

And why it is so extremely dangerous that people are trying to destroy those checks and institute a direct democracy with things like the national popular vote.


Any nation that could, by pure democratic vote of a sovereign people, turn itself into a direct democracy if it so desired, seems related enough to direct democracy that it makes little sense to distinguish it this way.

In the US, the constitutional amendment process simply requires enough people in enough states to make an amendment happen. The people of the US could turn the US into one gigantic direct democracy should enough people so democratically vote.

The fact that most people in the US seem satisfied with a representative democracy rather than a direct democracy hardly seems reason to say that the US is not a democracy at all.

All of those checks and balances at every level of government were established by either the people themselves or by representatives of the people on behalf of the people. They were not put in place by some king or dictator. The checks and balances could be undone anytime enough people wanted to undo them, up to and including voiding the current Constitution and starting over if enough people wanted to. Maybe this kind of democracy should be distinguished from a true direct democracy -- like maybe an acquiescent direct democracy, where as long as you keep doing what the people want they won't take back direct control or something.

But the fact of the matter is that the sovereign of the United States as a whole and of each of the states individually is and has always been the people, the demos, δῆμος -- from whence democracy (δημοκρᾰτῐ́ᾱ) comes.

I mean, it says it right there at the beginning of the establishing document, "We the people ..."


>Any nation that could, by pure democratic vote of a sovereign people, turn itself into a direct democracy if it so desired, seems related enough to direct democracy that it makes little sense to distinguish it this way.

The US could not turn itself in to a direct democracy with a vote of the people. The US Constitution would have to be amended and there is no mechanism in the US Constitution that would allows a direct vote to turn this nation into a direct democracy

>In the US, the constitutional amendment process simply requires enough people in enough states to make an amendment happen.

No that is not how it works at all. Either Congress would have to propose Amendments or 2/3 of the states would have to get together at a convention to propose them

Then they would need to be ratified by 3/4 (not 50%) of the states to be adopted

A direct Democracy would only require 50%+1 of the people in a nation wide vote. That is not how our constitution works and there is zero mechanism for such a vote to happen

>The checks and balances could be undone anytime enough people wanted to undo them, up to and including voiding the current Constitution and starting over if enough people wanted to.

This is all true, and has been over the years. For example on massive check on federal government power was that the Senate was not to be popularly elected by citizens, instead the Senate's purpose was to represent each states government's interest in congress, not the people. The House was "the peoples house", The constitution was amended to make the Senate a popularly elected position just like the house. This resulted in a MASSIVE expansion of Federal power, and the loss of State Sovereignty and pushing us closer to the nightmare that would be a direct democracy aka mob rule


> The US could not turn itself in to a direct democracy with a vote of the people. The US Constitution would have to be amended and there is no mechanism in the US Constitution that would allows a direct vote to turn this nation into a direct democracy

Who in your mind does the voting on the representatives that would be proposing and voting on the constitutional amendments? I didn't say that it would only take a simple majority of voters to turn the US into a direct democracy. I said it would take enough voters to turn the US into a direct democracy. It would simply take enough voters to turn state legislatures into machines to produce the amendments to turn the Constitution into a direct democracy through amendment.

I never once in my reply said that it would take a simple majority.

>>In the US, the constitutional amendment process simply requires enough people in enough states to make an amendment happen.

> No that is not how it works at all. Either Congress would have to propose Amendments or 2/3 of the states would have to get together at a convention to propose them

Yes, this is literally how it works. If enough people of the several states voted for enough legislators who were committed to amending the Constitution such, that is all you need.

The process is more involved, yes, as you've laid out. But all you need is enough voters to do it. Those voters might have to go through the process of populating their state legislatures and the federal delegations with the right representatives to do it, but the sole requirement is that you have enough voters who want to do it.

> Then they would need to be ratified by 3/4 (not 50%) of the states to be adopted

Yes, again, this is just another way of saying that you need enough people. States can ratify by public referendum or by action of the legislature. Either way, you just need enough people. (E.g., [0])

> A direct Democracy would only require 50%+1 of the people in a nation wide vote. That is not how our constitution works and there is zero mechanism for such a vote to happen

I never said a single, nationwide vote. I just said you need enough people voting.

> This is all true, and has been over the years. For example on massive check on federal government power was that the Senate was not to be popularly elected by citizens, instead the Senate's purpose was to represent each states government's interest in congress, not the people. The House was "the peoples house", The constitution was amended to make the Senate a popularly elected position just like the house. This resulted in a MASSIVE expansion of Federal power, and the loss of State Sovereignty and pushing us closer to the nightmare that would be a direct democracy aka mob rule

I agree with this (except the moralizing about mob rule -- I don't have much opinion on whether direct democracy would be good or bad). All I'm saying is that if enough people wanted to, the progression to direct democracy would be unstoppable. All it takes is enough people (voting for the right legislators, etc etc yes yes the process itself takes more than a simple vote).

Edit: I am not saying whether the US voters turning the US into a direct democracy would be a good thing or not! I don't claim to know one way or another. I am only claiming that they could, if they wanted to. End edit.

I'm sorry that I was not more clear in what I wrote.

I was merely trying to point out that in a nation where the people themselves retain the ultimate power (sovereignty) to direct their own form of government, regardless of how the government is constituted at any given time, then you cannot realistically call it anything other than a democracy.

[0] https://ballotpedia.org/Ohio_Ratification_of_Federal_Constit...


I believe you have terms misconstrued.

What we in the US have is a representative democracy / republic that is also rather decentralized federation (states and state's rights) as well.

The US is a democracy. 🇺🇸


I believe we, the US, is a Constitutional Republic, and we vote Democratically.

The original design of the government was to have only 1/2 of 1 branch of government Democratically Elected. That being the House

The Senate was appointed by State Legislatures, this was changed with the 17th Amendment

The President is Chosen by Electorial College not a democratic vote (which I support BTW)

The Judicial Branch is Appointed for Life.


The Electoral College is one of the most significant aspects of our electoral system and hopefully will never be supplanted by popular vote.

It is what we want it to be, even if it may take 100 more years to get there.

From the 1828 (first edition) of Webster's dictionary:

> Republic: 1. A commonwealth; a state in which the exercise of the sovereign power is lodged in representatives elected by the people. In modern usage, it differs from a democracy or democratic state, in which the people exercise the powers of sovereignty in person. Yet the democracies of Greece are often called republics.

So historically, a distinction was in fact made.

Here is Alexander Hamilton (a republican in the classical sense of the word) making the distinction very clearly:

> "We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. Those who mean to form a solid republican government, ought to proceed to the confinges of another government. As long as offices are open to all men, and no constitutional rank is established, it is pure republicanism. But if we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy."

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Alexander_Hamilton#Debates_of_...


The traditional media had to operate in the open. You could figure out what your neighbor was reading by buying his/her newspaper for a day. Also, newspapers could report on each other’s reporting. This has become increasingly opaque.

I feel the traditional media operated in the open as much as you can still get whatever message is broadcasted to half of the population by clicking on a few links.

Even in the days anything more insidious would happen over direct mailing, or direct spam through the mailbox. Even knowing what magazines someone subscribes to is not obvious if you don’t catch the mail staff or check the garbage, which would be roughly equivalent to stalking someone online and checking their accounts followings and network.

I think as long as people are trying to build communities, there will be channels to get what other people are thinking/reading/discussing. It will be more tricky with true direct one direction messaging sending “orders” to an army of followers of an ideology.


Media conglomerates still indeed have some sway.

CNN et al which all have questionable at best propaganda/war drum records are still pointed to with appeals to authority.l, etc.


its not just media though. politicians in my country directly give ppl money, liquor ect in exchange for their vote, its not really happening in open.

We need political adverts otherwise we wouldn't know what any party supports. One solution I can think of is every party gets equal ad time so no one can buy more votes and we all find out whats going on.

It's not deeply flawed, just corrupted, but hey, anything can, there's no silver bullet against it.

Why blame democracy when the elephant in the room is capitalism?

It wasn't the advertising industry in general that made the decision that person X authorizing Cambridge Analytica granted access to the data of every friend of person X. That sits squarely on the scum at 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park. The ad industry isn't full of angels by any means, but no reputable companies treated private data so cavalierly.

Hey, this prediction is interesting, but not resonant with my experience as someone who works in this. Cambridge Analytica's impact on 2016 is significantly overstated. In fact, I would feel confident saying their impact was zero. The really interesting story about Trump and his digital operation is not CA, but the organizational innovations that Brad Parscale brought to the campaign.

Historically, political campaigns haven't designed their paid digital strategies around the iterative, test-driven tactics seen in other industries. The answer why is complicated but Parscale, as far as I can tell, was able to avoid all this organizational cruft because the campaign was so haphazardly put together. Happy to share more if this interesting to you, my startup is in this space.


>Cambridge Analytica's impact on 2016 is significantly overstated.

What about the other 100 elections in the other 30 countries that were claimed to be won by SCL Elections, CA's parent company?

edit - and what do you think of CA's effect on Brexit? Am in the UK, so have been thinking about CA in light of that, more than any involvement they had with Trump.


Cambridge Analytica didn't work on Brexit, though. You've been reading too much Guardian.

https://order-order.com/2018/11/06/information-commissioner-...

(My source could be criticised as biased, but click through to to the actual report by the Information Commissioner's Office if you are suspicious.)


>You've been reading too much Guardian.

No, just the early statements from Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU.

Was rather odd that Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU both claimed to be working together until it started to look bad - https://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-cambridge-analyt...


Another reply from me. You can also review this report from Julian Malins QC.

https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/static.assets.commercial....


I am somewhat suspicious of a report funded by the people being investigated. - https://www.malinschambers.com/2018/05/julian-malins-q-c-and...

Well, I think you should be willing to give a little weight to the fact that this is a QC. But still, fair I suppose.

Knowing one or two, not really.

Yes, they were going to work together. Nix was a salesperson and wanted to sound like business was going well, and I suppose leave.eu wanted to sound like they were getting things done. I refer you again to the ICO report.

Based on your experience what was CA good at except the marketing part. In how far were they able to deliver results for their clients or did they limit their results to strategic recommendations?

> what was CA good at

I am not really sure we were good at anything. The company had no direction coming from upper management, so we weren't really able to become experts at anything. The salespeople used the psychographic nonsense to sell to clients, which everyone internal knew was nonsense, so we were sometimes forced to use nonsense to solve problems. We were also forced to tackle impossible challenges because of salespeople's promises. There was very high turnover.

The technical teams were nice and had a lot of smart people. Most were fresh out of uni; first job.

> except the marketing part

I don't think we were particularly good at marketing, unless you mean marketing ourselves as evil geniuses. In which case we were too good for our own good.


Soo... You worked at CA? Might be informative to note that in your comments....

Big talk, no walk. They didn't succeed in building a piece of software that would allow more economical targeting than Facebook already has with its custom audience system. If they helped win, which I would be intensely skeptical of, it's because they ran digital ads at all in places that weren't accustomed to doing so, but their supposed tool for targeting didn't help.

Do you think they have buried having been working on 100 other elections that they failed in? As it would seem to be unlikely to get a good track record on this by accident.

They don't have a good track record. They have good marketing. It is very hard to demonstrate (or disprove) efficaciousness in online persuasion, and as a result, it is easy to take credit for client victories. It is a great chain of bull shit

also, for your edit, I'd stand by my claim. SCL might have been running ads (I have no idea if they did), and those ads could've made a small but important difference. But I don't believe that the software CA claims to have built had any impact in running those hypothetical ads at all.

Thanks for your opinion on this. I suspect personally that they were only one small part of it. Mainly because there was so many other things going on, such as the acquiring of much of the Labour Party's election data by Election Data Limited, after the company was pinched from UKIP by Labour

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/nov/10/labour-part...

https://libertystratcom.org/2018/04/30/brexit-breach-labour-...

Who exactly in the Labour party thought it was a good idea to pinch an election strategy firm from UKIP, that chooses to trade under the name EDL, is beyond me.


thanks for listening, inflatableDodo! I'm glad I was able to share my perspective with you.

You mentioned being in the same space. Does your stuff work?

Fair question, yes it does. We've pivoted quite a bit so where we landed has nothing to do with optimizing ads for campaigns, even though it's where we started. What we sell now is much closer to "Slack for political and nonprofit organizing", and it works very well for helping our clients retain their volunteers!

I think there are two issues with the FB data being conflated here: CA's targeted advertising and the population data itself.

For the advertising, concur there's a lot of disagreement over whether or not CA's models worked.

For the data though, having a dataset on population preferences and network connections is useful for things besides just advertising. For example, most people agree the Russian campaign was based on dividing the population on divisive issues; the data exfiltrated from Facebook should reveal any particular group's divisive issues.

TLDR; There's other uses for the data besides targeted ads in the broader topic of data privacy.


I think that very few people who buy ads in politics believe CA's model works. I think Russians could figure out that race was divisive in the US because they've known that and their propaganda has long centered on American racism. It doesn't mean it's not a scandal to have all that data exfiltrated, but it's not materially impactful.

No one in this thread has mentioned the Obama campaign of 2012.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/17/obama-digital-...

Barack Obama's re-election team are building a vast digital data operation that for the first time combines a unified database on millions of Americans with the power of Facebook to target individual voters to a degree never achieved before.

Digital analysts predict this will be the first election cycle in which Facebook could become a dominant political force. The social media giant has grown exponentially since the last presidential election, rendering it for the first time a major campaigning tool that has the potential to transform friendship into a political weapon.


What is “noopolitics”?

Is a fancy-pants neologism from political theorists about how the world supposedly works these days. From 'noos', meaning knowledge. One thing I find funny, given the construction, is that nobody outside of political theory seemingly knows about it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noopolitik


I thought it was a fancy contraction for 'no-op politics' where at the end of your term, the org/country would stay where it was before you :-)

>From 'noos', meaning knowledge.

Etymologically it means intelligence (and used literally, it meant "mind").


True, however Arquilla and Ronfeldt, who coined it while at RAND in the late '90s, defined it as 'the network based geopolitics of knowledge'.

Now we know. Thanks for sharing.

How do you pronounce it?

Gnupolitik.

Do you have a source?

I can't find one, but have seen at least one instance with an umlaut over the second o, suggesting something more akin to "new-o-politik" to my mind, which would fit somewhat with long o ancient Greek stuff I remember from taking Greek in college long ago and far away.


Very sorry, was making a silly joke, not providing useful pronounciation.

Thank you.

To be fair, asking for the "source" for "Gnupolitik" (GNU/Politik?) is a great reply, even if you didn't get the joke.

I still don't get the joke. Feel free to explain if you are feeling so inclined.

The joke I'm imagining is based on a mental association I have with the acronym "GNU", which is used by The GNU Project:

https://www.gnu.org/gnu/thegnuproject.en.html

The group behind that project support the idea that people who use software should have access to the source code of that software, and therefore requesting the "source" is an action they would encourage.

They are also responsible for individual pieces of software with names like "GNU Emacs":

https://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/

Hopefully this information proves interesting and useful to someone, and I haven't merely made a silly joke less funny by explaining it.


Genuinely surprised you've hung out here so long and haven't picked up on GNU/open source software talk.

This should leapfrog you in that specific direction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_free_and_open-sourc...


I know what Gnu/open source is. I got that it was a reference to that.

That doesn't really clarify "the joke" for me. I don't see how that's a joke.


Is one of those words I have almost never heard pronounced. And on the rare occaisions I have, it is by people who are similarly unsure of the correct pronunciation.

But you probably have heard similar words, such as nootropics. That word gets pronounced "new-o-tropics."

Classic Greek "long o" is literally a long o. The sound is drawn out at length.

So it seems likely to me this is pronounced similar to nootropics.


My personal guess, but not an informed one, was to just rhyme it with 'moo'.

new-o-politic, or no-o(h)-politic both would be good.

no-oh-politics (or no-os-politics).

Like the term of yore, no-o-sphere (the sphere of the mind/intellect) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noosphere


Nu-oh-politics.

(Snobs will spell it noöpolitics)


It's newspeak for realpolitik. Around the turn of the millennium a lot of political words got reinvented as the power of influence became more and more outsourced to corporations and less about networks of back room deals. (Why waste years building influence when you can just buy an influence package from a "think tank.")

But a consultant can't sell his company's services using 1800's words like "realpolitik," so new words were invented like "noopolitics."

"Political consultants" became "policy wonks," but thankfully that term pretty much died after the Clinton administration.

Also, "casual sex" became "locationships" in campaign circles. I think that term should have lasted longer. At least longer than noopolitics.


> Political consultants" became "policy wonks," but thankfully that term pretty much died after the Clinton administration

Political operative is making a comeback.


> became "policy wonks"

"Policy wankers" would fit better.


I'd say it is quite distinct in definition from realpolitik as it focuses on the role of information on power games, rather than the practice of utilitarianism in power games.

I don't think it's a standard term but you can extrapolate from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noosphere. Maybe "the sport of influencing opinion at mass scale"

Has been a standard term for policy wonks and polscis for a while now.


> So, chaos in the news and the elimination of any kind of consistent narrative from on high.

Isn't this just an offshoot of The CIA's "alleged" control of the news, which dates back to the 1950's? IMO it is. Unless [1] Operation Mockingbird never happened, and [2] Carl Bernstein was writing fiction.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mockingbird

[2] http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php


We had the foundation already, now we get the foundation with n players. I think it will look closer to Gibson than Orwell.

Don't underestimate influence's ability to scale. Google and FB have grown at a serious pace for a long time. There is some element of "good old days gone by" at any given time, but for the most part, the stuff that advertisers are after scaled. There's more of it.

> The key takeaway that some people will have had from Cambridge Analytica, is not 'they got caught, don't do this', but rather 'they were largely successful and incredibly cheap'.

When you file things in court between private individuals, or for a government indictment, it becomes an instruction manual. Scrap whatever internet marketing handbook you ordered, disregard whatever guru you are following and hoping to trust, these court filings are the canonical source on what successful people are doing online.


I ran this playbook in ‘15 in the off year between local elections. Before mainstream awareness of the leverage, I found it easy to get electeds to adopt my talking points. I’m not sure it would be as effective today.

US elections 2012

Obama, Facebook and the power of friendship: the 2012 data election

A unified computer database that gathers and refines information on millions of potential voters is at the forefront of campaign technology – and could be the key to an Obama win

Ed Pilkington and Amanda Michel in New York

Fri 17 Feb 2012

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/17/obama-digital-...


This assumes that targeted ads are truly effective for changing politics. This remains to be studied through rigorous science rather than in trial-by-journalists.

Targeted ads are extremely effective, in general. You'll never see a scientific study because nobody in ad space wants targets to realize this.

I used to run a campaign so well targeted that we had an 8% buy rate. That is, 8% of the people that saw the ad not only clicked, they actually bought the product.

Google charged us $35 for every click but the product was so expensive we still made a killing.

Targeted advertising needs to be banned for the good of society. It's evil, inisidious. All about trying your best to manipulate the worst traits of human nature for profit.

I can pretty easily find out if you're an addict, ex con, a gambler, in debt, illegal immigrant, bad English, maybe a minority. I'll find something you're probably insecure about and use that to sell you shit.

Also, I don't wanna waste money showing my ads to poor people. Can't do that directly, but there's plenty of proxies. Just add a bunch of "interests" to your audience. Things Like horse racing, wine collecting, yachts, expensive rugs.

I wish I was kidding, but everyone does this on targeted advertising platforms. It's a discrimination minefield, but since you use proxy characteristics for everything and everyone covers their eyes it's totally fine.


I make $200,000 doing smart proxying for FB campaigns.

My favorite easy way to increase ad efficiency?

Exclude Android users. Really.


Our best marks came from AM radio. Highly skewed towards old rich business owners adrift in the game of modern advertising

> I'll find something you're probably insecure about and use that to sell you shit.

What's an example of this? I'm generally confused by your claim, because I've used a whole lot of internet and literally never bought anything through an ad.


I want to believe me neither but lately I've researched some personal medical issues and the amount of well written absolutely not-scientific (while citing lot's of studies) blog posts / sites that sell you something and make you believe you have an non-existing disease that's easy to self diagnose (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrenal_fatigue) is pretty high for any medical topic.

If you are desperate and someone is able to convince you that he can solve your problems for only 20-50$ no questions asked, next day in delivered to your home wouldn't you click if you had the money?


how is that related to targeted ads?

It's probably not his field, but Scientology is an example. Their "personality test" is their way to find out your vulnerabilities and exploit you to shell out money to find "inner peace" through their "religion".

You're off base then. Maybe too smart, definitely not our target market.

Do a Google search for X accident lawyer, where X is literally anything, and you'll see what I'm talking about.

The most expensive targeted ads prey on the desperate. Personal injury, bankruptcy, addiction, jail, death and next of kin, cancer, you name it. Think if the worst possible things that could happen to somebody. Those are the most lucrative ad keywords


> You feel ugly and lonely. Look at this group of young attractive people. They've got a vibrant group of friends and do lots of cool things like drinking ice cold Coca-Cola™. You should drink some Coca-Cola™ too so you can be like them.

As dumb as it sounds when put like this, it actually works. When you start looking for it, marketing that exploits body image insecurities is particularly common.


"It doesn't work on me therefore it doesn't work at all" seems like somewhat flawed reasoning.

Out of curiosity, what product space do you operate in?

Business consulting. The only thing more costly than the problem is the cure

Advertising a painkiller in a hospital is also targeted advertising. The question is whether digital is somehow dangerously more effective than other forms (which are ostensibly considered "safe"). I m not surprised by your data point, you are obviously selling something to very specific to people who really need it, but this says nothing about the ability to change people's opinion on something.

And as counterpoint, if it was really so effective as you claim, why haven't we seen huge increases in ad spending lately?


>Advertising a painkiller in a hospital is also targeted advertising

And should also be banned. A painkiller being promoted and bought more by customers just because it has more money to spend in advertising is morally worse than the mere creepiness of regular (buy BS stuff you don't need) targeted advertisement.

Who needs ads?

Level the playing field with an online catalog where patients can discover (in, say, random order for each viewing, to avoid even sorting bias) all available painkillers.

You can then add voting to the catalog, so patients and doctors can weight in for how good they think the painkiller is -- but with huge fines and prison for any company trying to manipulate buy those votes.


Ad spending for anything worthwhile is insane. if you haven't seen it you're just not in the industry. I've seen keywords that go for over 60$ for a single click. And nearly all are exploitative

Google is one of the biggest companies in the world solely from advertising revenue. Same with Facebook and other social media. The more information they have about you, the more terrible the ad targeting


> you are obviously selling something to very specific to people who really need it

Is that really the "obvious" inference?

Perhaps they're just good at selling something outrageously overpriced to a category of particularly gullible marks. It wouldn't be the first time in advertising history, I'm sure.


Genuine question -- are there places where painkillers are advertised in hospital?

The New Knowledge whitepaper[0] on the Russian social media interference operation noted several times that Facebook could've provided a lot more data than it chose to release (i.e. relevant FB comments, the number of users who interacted with fake content who also went to the polls, etc.) A lot of important context was intentionally left out of their release that could've helped researchers better understand the tactics and effectiveness of the operation.

We're never going to get a comprehensive answer to the questions underlying these operations as long as companies like Facebook get to pick and choose what data gets released to research these issues.

[0]: https://www.newknowledge.com/articles/the-disinformation-rep...


New Knowledge was caught manufacturing Russian social media interference. I don’t recommend using them as a source.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/us/alabama-senate-roy-jon...

The CEO is part of several other unsavory propaganda campaigns, such as Hamilton 68, which Greenwald et al have pretty effectively torn apart.


Thanks for posting this

>This remains to be studied

I think it is fair for me to assume that propaganda does influence politics without having to commission a study on it.


Why? Because propagandists try really hard? Because they spend a lot of money on it?

History books mostly.

The US 2016 election is pretty damn conclusive. Push a simple message to the swing states of the Midwest, and boom.

If Hillary had not pulled strings on the DCCC, or she actually campaigned on those states, no amount of ads could have swinged them.

That's the election in which one candidate massively out-spent the other but nevertheless lost, right?

the relevant question is whether it influences on a scale we want to stop. Treating it as a binary isn’t very useful.

>This remains to be studied through rigorous science rather than in trial-by-journalists.

If politicians get results when they spend their money on it, they wont care to wait for "rigorous science" to prove anything. And they wont be foolish to pay for non-results for long...

Empirical results beat "rigorous science" every time...


  And they wont be foolish to pay for
  non-results for long...
Imagine Joe gets re-elected after delivering 30,000 pre-election leaflets, knocking on 3,000 doors, delivering 10,000 reminders on the day of the poll, getting 13,000 views of facebook adverts, employing 2 people to do casework for constituents, calling 7,000 people with a human-operated phone-bank, robocalling 20,000 people, attending 40 community events, getting 300 people rides to polling stations, getting 5 celebrity endorsements, getting 1 visit from a really high profile colleague, and so on...

It's far from obvious to me that you could tell apart the effects of different efforts - especially as you don't know who each voter voted for.


>It's far from obvious to me that you could tell apart the effects of different efforts - especially as you don't know who each voter voted for.

Companies that do those short of campaigns stagger them at different times, do polls before and after, test a new method in this or that area or demographic and check again and so on through election year.

It's not just "apply a bunch of methods at once" -> "check the final election result" as the only feedback.


still in this case the candidate who spent the most lost the election

You’re right of course, but until we get the double-blind randomized trial, we have Occam’s Razor: if people didn’t think it worked they wouldn’t pay so much for it.

Which is a very different question than whether or not it worked. After all, people pay billions every year on useless nutritional supplements which have a lot of evidence to suggest they don’t work as people think.

Yet they still pay. People are irrational.


Wouldn’t the better analogy here be money spent on marketing supplements, which does in fact seem to work?

Good point.

I know I should not extrapolate from one data point, and by way of example after a friend joined FB about 2 years ago, I have noticed a progressive change in their viewpoints. Although a trained scientist, they now talk frequently about (1) anti-vaccination, (2) chemtrails, (3) climate change hoax,(4) Soros, (5) Brexit.

My hypothesis is that hawkers of nonsense use FB to identify people interested in one of the above and then bombard them with recommends.

After all, we behave according to our lived experience - and if social media platforms are used to alter the perception of lived experience, then logic dictates that they can sway behaviour.

Should I be smug? Absolutely not! I have little idea where my opinions come from.


Ad spending as percentage of gdp has not changed in at least a century. So i m not sure if these new media are any more effective than any other media. I honestly am baffled at the lack of scientific research of the effectiveness of advertising in the digital age, to the point of being suspicious.

https://static.seekingalpha.com/uploads/2018/3/20/607954-152...


Or you could attribute that to Hanlon’s razor and explain their stupidity as them trying to simply appear modern thus spending money on “new” things.

Not everything is so black and white.


Is there any evidence that Hanlon's razor is actually even a thing? Or do people just tell this to themselves to feel better about humanity as a whole. IMO giving them the benefit of the doubt isn't doing us any favors.

Not just randomization. There is no reason to believe targeted ads increase spot purchase propensity; rather, it more effectively spreads information to people currently looking for it.

This is the sort of question that tends to be settled in a market (of one kind or another) rather than rigorous science.

the market shows that ad spending overall has not increased during the transition to the digital age. It has shifted from traditional to digital, but overall businesses spend the same amounts on advertising as in the past.

Political ad spending has been growing nonstop, outpacing inflation significantly.

Interesting. However this article claims that the reason for the jump is the 2010 decision to allow unlimited political spending. And lets remember that in the US the biggest spenders ddid not win.

https://www.google.gr/amp/s/www.marketwatch.com/amp/story/gu...


> This assumes that targeted ads are truly effective for changing politics

No it doesn't. "Targeted ads" had very little to do with the CA/Facebook scandal and I see them as largely irrelevant in what happened. So I don't see that assumption present in the top comment at all.

A significant amount of the "noopolitics" done with this kind of data is done through peer-based evidence - "regular" accounts posting political things, with "regular" accounts responding, but where both accounts are false personas, spies if you will.

The 'targeted ads' line is a misleading spin. Very little was done with targeted ads and a lot more was done with impersonating Americans and posing as GOP officials, etc.


Michael Lewis (Moneyball, Big Short) interviewed Alex Kogan:

https://atrpodcast.com/episodes/the-alex-kogan-experience-s1...

After listening to this, it sounds like Cambridge Analytica was overblown, in the sense that the information wasn’t as useful as claimed.


> it sounds like Cambridge Analytica was overblown, in the sense that the information wasn’t as useful as claimed

The consequences of the breach were overblown. Its scale and depth, however, were not.


The "overblown" part refers solely to the predictive powers of the dataset.

My conspiracy theory is that the whole Cambridge Analytica ordeal makes Facebook data appear to be valuable, which makes Facebook look valuable. And in reality, it is not nearly as valuable as the perception that is cultivated.

This seems corroborated by the fact that Facebook's fine was incorporated as cost of doing business.

Putting it in another way, CA was a false flag operation to keep Facebook's stock value?


Yes. The masses (including investors) do not know much about facebook ad targeting, its effectiveness and RoI on social advertising.

This is similar to what I'd heard from people laid off by Cambridge analytica. Apparently credit rating agency data was much more useful for their purposes while Facebook data was pretty much useless.

Wtf? How did they get credit ratings and where was that reported? That sounds like a huge red flag.

Companies like infogroup estimate credit score for all Americans. You can buy that + estimated income + addresses for every American for not that much money.

This has nothing to do with social media. Credit card companies and other direct mail orgs have been buying and selling this stuff since the 80s.


Do you have an estimate for how much 'not that much money' is?

You can buy a person's data in bulk for a penny each.

Credit ratings are a dime a dozen when you're doing targeted ads. How do you think the 3 for profit ratings agencies make money? I get tons of mail telling me to consolidate my student loans, it's not random

I manage FB ads for a living. I can guarantee you the cambridge analytica data was close to useless (custom audiences almost always are compared to lookalikes. Especially a broad untargeted audience like that.)

Much more impactful was organic (non paid ads) russian efforts.


And I'm still skeptical either were that effective. Domestic efforts go into the billions of dollars and involve entire sectors of the domestic economy.

Probably. The biggest thing was not on social media at all - it was the drip releasing of the hacked email dumps, which controlled the news cycle for months and fed into the corrupt Hillary narrative.

I have a feeling that these things worked in synergy and would not have had much effect if deployed on their own.

I'm not saying that the Russians or whoever influenced the election necessarily knew what they were doing from the outset but I think that they have stumbled on a combination that works or at least worked at that time.

Which leads me to another interesting point: Will these techniques work again in the future? Will the application of them need to be tweaked for differences in our culture or in different localities? How so?

It's all very interesting stuff. I wish there was more data.


What do you mean by “these techniques”? I would say it boiled down to “telling lies that infatuate their target audience.”

In this regard I’d say the collusion conspiracy kicked off by Steele has been significantly more efffective than any Russian effort leading up to the election.

Mostly that’s because the Russians had some fake Facebook groups while Steele had the FBI and a large part of the American mass media all shilling for him.


That, and tampering with voting infrastructure to alter the results. There is a growing body of evidence that the GRU has actually hacked the election in the most literal sense, using the detailed polling data supplied by Manafort and as a map.

Anomalies were detected in the data as early as 2016. The Mueller report brings even more evidence to the table. At this point it’s likely that voting infrastructure was compromised in some way in all 50 states, with detectable anomalies in all swing states, and in all states where Trump blindsided pollsters. It turns out that actual fraud might be the reason for the blindsiding.

https://web.archive.org/web/20161125081654/http://gothamist....


>> There is a growing body of evidence

Present the evidence then. I keep hearing about this mythical "evidence" of vote tampering in particular, and yet when I press for the actual evidence to be presented it turns out to be entirely "faith based" in the end every time. The very article you linked to, in fact, says: "There's still no evidence of vote hacking, of course".

Disclosure: I'm a naturalized Russian American who has spent most of his life in the US. Love this country, warts and all.


DHS has said they know they're already trying to hack into various voting machines to alter ballets. They felt confident that even if they did, the decentralized nature of our voting process would make it to arduous to be effective [1]. Voting machines have made rounds here before, mainly due to their lack of security [2]. Let's not forget that there were other hacks designed to sway voter confidence in Trumps favor [3]. All the while social media has been lit on fire through various efforts, such as inflammatory meme's [4], actual paid advertising campaigns [5], and funding for extremist groups [6].

Yes, there's no direct proof that they hacked our voting ballots. I think there is some evidence, but that agencies assumed they just weren't effective AND witheld the information in an effort to prevent Russia's ultimate motive of undermining democracy entirely. This is why nobody is showing evidence and choosing to rely on "faith".

[1] https://www.dhs.gov/news/2016/10/07/joint-statement-departme... [2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18093568 [3] https://www.cnn.com/2016/12/26/us/2016-presidential-campaign... and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uUfYtHfw3A [4] https://www.wired.com/story/russia-ira-propaganda-senate-rep... [5] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/us/politics/russia-2016-e... [6] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/08/russia-is-...


There was widespread vulnerability scanning of election websites (not sure how they distinguish this from the scanning that happens on every IPv4 address).

In some cases there was attempts to do SQL injection on these sites.

In a couple instances there is evidence that voter rolls were accessed.

There is no evidence of any vote tampering, and any suggestion that there was is just a conspiracy theory.


  >> to prevent Russia's ultimate motive of 
  >> undermining democracy entirely
I do not believe Russia has such a motive. I do believe they do want to weaken the US (just as the US wants to weaken its own geostrategic opponents, including Russia), but they couldn't really care less if the US is a democracy or something else. That's why FB ads were targeted at both sides, to rile them up against each other. And that's also why they organized protests after Trump won.

For the past 2 years or so, the entirety of the democratic party and mainstream press have been helping them to undermine and divide the US, so I figure it's working according to their plan. The US is exactly where Putin wants it to be: unproductive squabbling in the Congress and Senate, executive branch is partially paralyzed, half the US hates the other half due to basically lies fed to them by the mainstream press.

The rest of your post underscores my point perfectly: it's a faith-based argument.


It seems like they're following the "Donald Trump" strategy of publicity: (1)do something scandalous (2)get picked up by mainstream media for a cycle of handwringing/counter-handwringing, (3)profit (in form of outsize impact): you have the left angry, the right banding together in indignation, and the truly undecided unsure if what they're seeing is this "fake news" they've heard about. No billions required.

It was also overblown to the extent that there as a material 'scandal'. Most of the issue really had to do with the very public fact of Facebook's API's at the time.

Facebook rolled that stuff back long ago when it seemed there could be problems.

And of course, the misrepresentation of how the data was acquired - because the story was tied into other entities who got 'special access'. The blending of those stories created a false narrative.

To me - this is not about CA, it's about the press, clickbait, narrative management, PR and communications.

Knowing roughly 'what's happening' and lining that up against the narrative, the glowing glam-shots of the whistleblower in the Guardian, Facebook's response, the various versions of 'outrage' among the politicos. And nary anyone seemed to be on top of the basic reality.


I found this podcast fascinating, as it contradicted almost everything I had heard about CA. It seemed well researched, but now I'm wondering who is right? I'm leaning toward believing Alex Kogan, but honestly, I don't really know at this point. It's confusing.

That doesnt matter, that information wasnt as useful....

What matters is the intent and the methods.

Its not overblown, its under corrected.


It became a nice little scapegoat for voters who lost on both sides of the pond.

Still should not have been accessible like this.

Bear in mind, I'm from the U.K so I don't have an American perspective on this.

This is a bit closer to the truth when you read or listen to what analysis they were doing.

I think what they were doing and it's association with Trump conflated how bad it was.

I'd seen in some places that mining of Facebook data in the pre-trump era, was quite prolific by both parties.


Not just seems, it was a bragging point, because back then it was fine in the eyes of public, since the previous administration was a bit more likable. I recall an interview back from 2012, where our previous president was talking about it as an innovative technique for his campaign.[1]

[1] https://www.technologyreview.com/s/509026/how-obamas-team-us...


Facebook is all words but no actions. Their actions speak otherwise. This lawsuit is just a PR stunt for them to claim they did something so they have something to reply with at the next senate hearing.

My problem in this whole data privacy debate is things like "shadow profiles" where even though I don't have Facebook, they still have information on me because one of my friends decided to share their entire contacts list with facebook and thus facebook now knows my details too even though I never consented to my details being shared.

Another problem I have with this privacy debate is the lack of technological awareness in the politicians. I watched the US senate hearing last year with Mark Zuckerberg and was absolutely shocked at how clueless the members in office were. It was shameful. Mark also got away with giving almost useless answers and the senators didn't grill him much on more important issues.

At this point, I am really curious whether our data is even valuable in the "ad market" considering everything gets leaked anyway. So if something is getting so easily available to these ad companies by simply "misusing" the service, wouldn't the value of the data start going down? I remember a few months ago, there was an article on how the data per use was valued at around $12 (not sure if I am remembering right). I wonder if that value goes down over time because of these so claimed "breaches".


Cambridge Analytica was not the 1st time this was done.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/17/obama-digital-...


Also I'm curious why Correct the Record and Share Blue are nearly complete ignored when they did the exact same thing at the exact same time.

They took over the main politics subreddit in 2016, one of the worst things I’ve seen happen online. Crickets.

By all accounts it seems like there was a major reshuffling that took place on the night of the Democratic National Convention.

The entire mood of the subreddit changed overnight from posts that vilified Sec. Clinton to posts that glorified her - it was completely crazy. I read that subreddit quite frequently during US election season and the difference was staggering. People dismiss it as "everyone rallied behind the nominee" - as someone who was there practically every day. It definitely wasn't that. There is definitely something shady going on with that subreddit in particular.

Incidentally, the TV news media was also seemingly doing a blackout of the fairly heated protests taking place outside the building where all the disappointed Bernie folks were trying to get inside. I only found out of them much later from online videos.


Yeah I used to enjoy the sub too, some interesting discussions that were usually polite. You are 100% correct it was overnight, there was nothing organic about that.

Do you have more information on this?

From the same journalist that broke the Snowden story:

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/963804731759038465


Because they didn’t. You’ve fully bought into one fantasy and now are suspicious of any reasoning that contradicts your preconceptions.

> they did the exact same thing at the exact same time.

They did not do the "exact same thing" at all. You are spreading lies using logical fallacies and that causes harm to the community here; please stop. Your false equivalence, presented without evidence, is harmful.


In those days it was common practice for folks to blindly accept permissions that apps asked for. If someone stole a database filled with access tokens, they'd in-turn have access to all of this data.

The sets to consider are:

- The cases where they did it. We know they did it. We're making a big deal out of it (CA, etc)

- The cases where they did it. We know they did it. We're not making a big deal out of it (Obama, given the sad state of much of western media)

- The cases where they did it and nobody knows, and nobody seems to care about.

I suspect the last case has the highest numbers. There were probably hacking operations that took whatever access tokens they could find, ate the user's entire social graph, and sold it off.


There are many similarities but I think the key difference is Cambridge Analytica as its own entity sold its data (including psychological profiles of users' Facebook friends) gathered from an apolitical survey app to multiple other entities such as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Brexit. So essentially a service that I never signed up for is potentially selling my presumed psychological profile to political campaigns, for a profit. I'd argue that's a bit of a bamboozle. The Obama campaign was using a similar data set but it didn't breach Facebook's terms and its intrinsically political purpose wasn't really obfuscated.

Their campaign made use of friend's data as well (as I understand it).

That is a false equivalence. You are spreading lies by equating two very different things.

> Cambridge Analytica was not the 1st time this was done.

is not supported by the link you supplied. If you want to equate the two, then go ahead and do it, but you'll need much better sources than that.

CA/Trump is very different from what Obama's campaign did.


How about these tweets from Obama's campaign manager? https://twitter.com/cld276/status/975565844632821760

Both campaigns abused Facebook to get the personal information of people who never downloaded the offending app. The Obama campaign collected information on a lot more people than CA did, so many that Facebook said they would have blocked anybody else requesting that much information.


I may be misunderstanding this, but it looks like the Obama campaign was able to access the entire social graph of people who knew that they were contributing information to the Obama campaign. So for example if we were Facebook friends and they got you from my social graph, it would be because I knowingly let them have access to my information knowing it was for political purposes.

According to the Wikipedia article on the CA scandal [1]:

> Cambridge Analytica in turn arranged an informed consent process for research in which several hundred thousand Facebook users would agree to complete a survey only for academic use. However, Facebook's design allowed this app not only to collect the personal information of people who agreed to take the survey, but also the personal information of all the people in those users' Facebook social network. In this way Cambridge Analytica acquired data from millions of Facebook users

So, both got more information than the sharers intended (namely, information from people in their social graphs), but in the Obama case the root nodes of any such information trees were people who knew they were sharing with the Obama campaign whereas in the CA case the root nodes were people who were told that they were sharing only for academic research.

That seems to me to be a pretty big difference. In the Obama case if I'm a root node, the abuse is that although they used the information for the purposes I intended when I gave it, they got more information than I may have intended to (or had a moral right to) give. In the CA case if I'm a root node the abuse is that plus them lying about why the information was being collected.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook%E2%80%93Cambridge_Ana...


What always amazed me about Cambridge Analytica is that the media onslaught only started almost a year (cant reclal excactly but a long time) after the presentation was shared online, it already garnered quite some views when I saw i for the first time. I remembered watching the entire presentation and was amazed by the depth of it all, but amazed as well how almost noone else seemed to care about the presentation.

I couldn't find any news agencies reporting on it whatsoever and I didn't understand why. I still have a hard time to believe that it took so long for the media attention to catch on.


This is about narratives.

Tons of facts are out there in the wild, waiting to make enough noise that they hit the mainstream press, when they pick up each others stories and it goes global.

A single tweet from way back can do this.

This is why the press has so much power, ultimately, they decide where 1 billion eyeballs will be pointed (and where they won't).

For this reason I check the headlines from a lot of different sources; it's amazing what doesn't get picked up.


Didn't something similar happen with Obama's campaign and social media? I don't remember any sort of outcry in that case.

Facebook has probably had a lot of those, but they don't matter if they are not related to specific US political campaigns.

Are you sure? I recently saw a non-political case from South Korea get some coverage, including on TechCrunch iirc.

and i m pretty sure it will be forgotten in a week

To be honest, "sending a message to the developers that we're enforcing our policies" is equally too late as self advertisement as they change the rules ever so often as they like if it sounds good to them. Fuck Facebook, you can live without the so called "social" media circle.

Did anyone else find it ironic there’s a scene in the Netflix AOC documentary where she’s crowded around a computer with her boyfriend scrolling through Google Ad spend targeting specific demographics and age groups?

Should you not target your Google Ad spending?

I don’t think so, but isn’t the entire Cambridge Analytica debacle an issue of using Facebook data to target political ads to users based on demographic information?

I don't believe Google sells your psychological profile to third parties seeking to target ads. Google might be able to ascertain my political leanings based on my behavior, and other parties may be able to target ads toward people with my political leanings, but Google never directly gives them actual knowledge regarding my existence.

Do you actually believe the profiles CA created were accurate or much more insightful over whatever demographic data FB or Goog let you target with?

I did a very similar project for a CS/stats class in 2011. They did some basic k-means clustering on likes and basic sentiment analysis on posts.


>Do you actually believe the profiles CA created were accurate or much more insightful over whatever demographic data FB or Goog let you target with?

Multiple political campaigns over the past several years clearly thought Cambridge Analytica's data/services were more valuable, or uniquely valuable, compared to services like Facebook or Google. If Google or Facebook were equally suited to the same purposes, I imagine they would have simply used Google or Facebook.


Many customers keep the tarot card shop down the street in business too.

Any marketing professional worth his salt employs the full force of his persuasive skill against his own customers/employers. A marketing firm does not merely try to convince you to buy coca-cola. They also try to convince The Coca-Cola Company that they are effective at convincing you to buy Coca-Cola.

The question anybody looking to hire an advertising firm should ask themselves is whether skill at the later implies skill at the former. It could be the case that CA is good at persuading political campaigns, but bad at persuading voters. One reason to believe there might be a discrepancy here is because the persuasion tech used by CA in both cases is likely totally different. Which is to say, CA likely did not employ their facebook profiling tech against political campaigns to persuade those campaigns to buy their services. Rather, they probably used more traditional sales tactics (perhaps as simple as lying about the efficacy of their facebook profiling tech.)


>Many customers keep the tarot card shop down the street in business too.

Right, because there's literally no alternative to fortune-telling magic but more kinds of fortune-telling magic. If there were already a conceptually different prediction service with useful and measurable accuracy, the tarot card place would need to have superior accuracy or some other hook, otherwise they'd go out of business. Ultimately the differences would be measurable and demonstrable.

Marketing team could be selling snake oil, I get it, but snake oil only exists where a real, functioning product doesn't, otherwise there'd be results to compare.


> " but snake oil only exists where a real, functioning product doesn't"

I have no idea where you could have gotten that impression. Snake oil can exist whenever the consumer is unable to distinguish real products from snake oil. Marketing is absolutely one of the industries in which snake oil abounds, and there is no reason whatsoever that it doesn't exist in the niche of political advertising.


Obama’s campaign was also hailed for using targeted advertising as an innovative technique back in the day. I think CA is largely a big deal because it’s one of the mainstream explanations for why trump won (never mind that there are real people who like his platform, as insane as it seems).

>Obama’s campaign was also hailed for using targeted advertising as an innovative technique back in the day.

Is there any suggestion that the Obama campaign obtained their data illegitimately?


Are you implying the source of the data is the primary concern for media attention as opposed to the outcome? What is legitimate and illegitimate data?

Please explain, what's even remotely ironic about that

People are freaking out about CA because it maybe helped Trump target people political ads based on demographic information even though every candidate does the exact same thing and no one seems to mind when others do it.

>People are freaking out about CA because it maybe helped Trump target people

Huh, the article doesn't even mention Trump

>every candidate does the exact same thing

But the issue isn't that ads are being targeted. The article specifically cites data misuse. The same is true in the case of CA, they were not supposed to be selling people's data to third parties.


It was the media freaking out about Cambridge Analytica helping Trump, wasn't it?

Interesting what people will sacrifice to see some barely defined number next to their name, or next to their post in some app.

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