Thursday, May 25, 2017

Facebook "Dark Posts"

I found this article particularly interesting, how the Trump campaign used Facebook "Dark Posts" to selectively turn off critical parts of the Democratic electorate. Dark posts, invisible to all but the recipient, were originally meant to allow advertisers to try out different creative variations on ad campaigns. They are perfect for political campaigns, where you can design a blizzard of micro ads for "whatever squirrel everyone chases."

Certain portions of the Democratic electorate were easy to target: 1.) Bernie supporters (DNC outrage), 2.) young women (easily-manipulated by ads targeting Bill Clinton), 3.) African-Americans (targeted with ads stressing Hillary's "super-predator" remarks from the 90's). And it worked like a charm!:
Parscale’s strategy of using Facebook’s “dark posts” also turned out to matter, enabling the Trump campaign to attack Clinton with targeted negative ads that flew below the public radar. Dark posts are not illegal. They are not necessarily “dark.” Unlike a regular Facebook advertisement, which appears on one’s timeline and can be seen by one’s friends, dark posts are invisible to everyone but the recipient. Facebook promotes them as “unpublished” posts that “allow you to test different creative variations with specific audiences without overloading people on your Page with non-relevant or repetitive messages.”

Phrased this way, dark posts sound benign, even benevolent. Parscale and his crew had other ideas. Facebook dark posts, used in tandem with more traditional attack ads, were part of the Trump team’s concerted effort to dissuade potential Clinton voters from showing up at the polls. (In March, Cambridge Analytica won an Advertising Research Foundation David Ogilvy Award for its “Can’t Run Her House” ad, which used a clip from the 2008 Democratic primary of Michelle Obama criticizing Clinton.)

“We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” a senior campaign official told Bloomberg’s Green and Issenberg. One targeted idealistic white liberals—primarily Bernie Sanders’s supporters; another was aimed at young women—hence the procession of women who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton and harassed by the candidate herself; and a third went after African-Americans in urban centers where Democrats traditionally have had high voter turnout. One dark post featured a South Park–like animation narrated by Hillary Clinton, using her 1996 remarks about President Bill Clinton’s anti-crime initiative in which she called certain young black men “super predators” who had to be brought “to heel.”

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