Thursday, June 21News That Matters

Open thread for night owls. Ghosh and Scott: Russia's election interference is Digital Marketing 101

Dipayan Ghosh and Ben Scott at The Atlantic write—Russia’s Election Interference Is Digital Marketing 101:

[…] Consider two things. First: While the Russians created fake accounts to pose as Americans on social media and buy ads, the technologies they deployed are all commonplace in the digital-marketing industry—this was no 007-style spycraft. Second: These days, Americans live in divisive, partisan information environments, chock-full of incendiary rhetoric. They have very low standards about the sources they accept as accurate, and yet aren’t great at parsing fact from fiction on the Internet. Even “digital natives”— young people most at home in an online information environment—have proven inept at judging credibility. In other words, when the Russians set out to poison American politics, they were pushing on an open door.

How does a ready-made toolbox for digital manipulation already exist? For that, we have the digital-advertising industry to thank.

In a recent study on the digital-advertising industry that we published with New America and Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, we analyzed how the tools of digital marketing can be readily repurposed by agents of disinformation. The basic idea is for advertisers to micro-target digital advertising at very specific demographic slices of social-media users to see how they respond. A disinformation operator could test hundreds of different messages, often aimed at thousands of different permutations of demographic groups on the advertising platforms of the most widely used social-media companies.

For example: A political advertiser (or communicator) might test a message about immigration in different cities across the country, or it might compare responses to that message based on age, income, ethnicity, education-level, or political preference. Because digital-media companies like Facebook collect vast amounts of data on their users, advertisers can parse based on age, income, ethnicity, political affiliation, location, education level, and many other consumer preferences that indicate political interests. Once the ad buys indicate what messages get the biggest response from particular groups, the operator can organize its entire social-media campaign to reach those people and build out bigger and bigger audiences.

This is digital marketing 101. Start with a product to sell and test a variety of messages until the best one rises to the surface. […]

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QUOTATION

“The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.” 
               ~Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time 

TWEET OF THE DAY

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Republicans to Michelle Obama: don’t tell our kids what to eat for their school lunches!Republicans to poor people: here is a box of canned food that you must eat.

— Isobel Rosenberg (@iso_r) February 19, 2018

BLAST FROM THE PAST

On this date at Daily Kos in 2009—Troop Surge in Afghanistan Means No Progressive Consensus:

President Barack Obama’s Tuesday announcement that the U.S. will be adding 17,000 fresh troops to those already fighting in Afghanistan upended hopes among some progressives that the 60-day policy review he announced February 10 would be completed before any such surge. As has been becoming publicly clear for a while now, progressives themselves are split on the issue.

A few have complained that those who are objecting to Obama’s course should have spoken up during his election campaign. This, delivered with a straight face in spite of the fact that there was broad progressive consensus that getting into a fight over Afghanistan would not help Obama’s chances against McCain. So progressives who opposed a troop escalation in Afghanistan kept mostly silent. Back then, their perspective was simply that there would be time after November 4 to persuade Obama that expanding the U.S. military presence was a bad idea. But since they shut up then in the interests of the greater good, they are told they should shut up now because they didn’t speak up then. Catch-22, subsection 3.

What was a campaign is now an administration. And while diplomacy and rebuilding efforts will surely be getting more attention, there is now every possibility that U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan will double, bringing the total NATO and American armed forces in that country close to 100,000. The NATO contingents are iffy in the long run, but the hints from generals like Petraeus, Odierno and McKiernan indicate that Americans could remain there for five years or more. In the view of some, including progressives, why not? After all, the U.S. still has tens of thousands of troops in Germany and Japan, and look how that turned out. Others see: quagmire.

The split among progressives became pronounced today in the form of a letter soon to be sent by the Get Afghanistan Right coalition to the President, his most powerful Cabinet members and the chief of the Afghanistan policy review team, ex-CIA employee Bruce Riedel. The letter, which argues that it is misguided to escalate U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, comes in response to efforts by the National Security Network to present a progressive consensus statement on the situation.

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin and Armando join us in wrapping up a wild weekend of Trump rage-tweets, Mueller indictments, contrarian hot takes on both, and much more. Is your state thinking of arming teachers? Beware: no one enforces the “safety rules” until it’s too late. 

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