How Cambridge Analytica Got Trump Elected in 2016
In 2016, Trump won in three battleground states and some 70,000 voters. Behind the scenes of the Trump campaign (and its opposition), the private data mined from the internet, Facebook, and Google, all contributed to painting a picture (mapping) of voters across the USA and in specific battleground states.
Trump's campaign saturated Facebook and other platforms with nearly 6 million anti-opponent ads, mostly in a fear-mongering manner or in hateful depictions of his rival. The Democrats used around 67,000 of the same type against Trump.
The data gathered by these internet companies was freely given by millions of unsuspecting voters and users in various innocent forms.
Enter Cambridge Analytica
This firm was hired by the Trump campaign to help persuade the undecided voters in America to vote Trump. These used the data from primarily Facebook to profile American voters with 5000 points of data and then used this info to create hateful, racist ads to divide Americans. They created the "Lock her up" phrase and other anti-Clinton ads and flooded social media outlets with them, focusing in the key battleground states and those swing voters. They used other tactics to dissuade the black vote from going out and vote or suppress the vote because, if it worked, Trump would gain from it (and he did).
This same firm used the same techniques in the UK (it was a UK firm) for Brexit, which proved highly successful, for Britain is in fact leaving the Common Market of Europe. They were also hired in Trinidad to suppress the black vote in a recent election when the Indian opposition wanted to win to control the government. The company created a campaign targeting young voters and, through social media, convinced them that not voting is the voice of opposition and a cool thing. When the election came, the Indian candidate won because of low black turnout.
Dark New World
There is nothing illegal about this. Cambridge Analytica is like what the Beatles were for rock—they changed everything in rock music, and CA has done the same to having fair elections.
While Cambridge Analytica is now defunct, its offspring and seeds of disinformation propaganda have spread and been learned by others that emulate it with the same tactics, namely using social media. While CA was rather innocent about it all (as it's just a business), Russia, China, Iran, and nearly any bad actor have learned many of the tactics to swing their internal elections.
When you add the Russian efforts to the CA tactics during the 2016 Trump campaign, it is staggering. Trump knew all about CA and how they might help his campaign, but really did not know much about the Russian effort, which happened to want the same result that CA did—Trump's victory. Of course, when Trump did find out about Russian interference, he welcomed it, which for a man running for president is ethically despicable. But Trump did not need the Russian help, which was minuscule when compared to CA, which did their job very well.
Future elections will be forever tainted now. In 2020, both sides will be using Cambridge Analytica's tactics, using the data of millions and narrowing down to which battleground states and specific districts the election will come down to. They will target nasty, hateful ads, with lies and images in those key areas to persuade the undecided voter to vote for their candidate or perhaps not to vote at all. Already, on Facebook, one is seeing those ads, whether they are obviously for a Republican or Democrat.
Cambridge Analytica opened the governments of the world to just how the personal data of voters gleaned from Facebook and other social media can be used to steer an election. The next time you see a political post on Facebook, ask yourself, is it a fact? If you are unsure, check multiple sources of news or research.
Protect yourself, your data, your vote.