Reality TV. The genre that has overtaken our lives, from watching ordinary people find the “love’ of their lives on a luxury island, to watching important political figures such as Stanley Johnson eating kangaroo…bits. We sit down and indulge ourselves on entertaining content, usually thanking god that it’s not us having to serenade Simon Cowell.
But what if one of these TV “stars” then decides one day, “I think I want to become president” (as most normal people do). What does it take in order for this to happen? Well no, this isn’t some sort of SNL comedy sketch. This is in fact real life, and it came down to one bumbling, blonde haired man by the name of Donald Trump and the help of the now infamous Cambridge Analytica.
By this point, if you do not know who Trump is then I do believe you may be in the extremely lucky minority. For those who do, I’m sure you ask yourself on a regular basis, how did this man ever become president of the United States (which, may I add would be a completely valid observation). Well America, you largely have the work of a data company known as Cambridge Analytica to thank for that.
Cambridge Analytica were a consulting firm, that was set up to combine data mining, data brokerage and analysis. They were able to offer services to business and political groups who wanted to “change audience behaviour.” They claimed that they where able to use certain algorithms, specifically tailored to your businesses needs, for example the ability to analyse consumer data and buying behaviours. In the case of the Trump campaign, their main objective was to ensure Donald Trump become president, by implementing a few “necessary” (unethical) steps.
This is my summarised “How to” guide of Cambridge Analytica’s process of transforming Trump from a second rate Alan Sugar to President of the USA. A fool proof system, made to aid the fool!
- Exploitation of Facebook users privacy
Exploitation. A common way to gain information on your target market, is it not? Cambridge Analytica developed an algorithm for Facebook, which involved paying participants to partake in a survey about their personalities, and as a result allowing access to all their Facebook data and information. Roughly 270,000 people took part in this survey, which as a result lead to around 30 million peoples data being accessed, as they were able to access friends of friends, all for the sake of $5! This allowed Cambridge Analytica to have extensive amount of data of the American public, which was what they effectively needed for the next step.
2. Breakdown of data
They then come up with a system that allowed them to group off people in certain divisions, for example people with a particular personality trait were seen to be more likely to support “the wall” being built, and therefore could be swayed to vote for Trump with a small amount of persuasive targeted marketing. They scored each personality using the Ocean model, which effectively segregated people into different characters based on things like their openness to new experiences and their neuroticism, which was then used to decide those who were sensitive from those who are more secure and confident. Who knew a small amount of information we have posted on Facebook would allow for a mass break down of our personalities, frightening isn’t it?
Once they where able to branch the individuals off into large groups and sub groups within that, they were then able to find out which participants they would tailor their marketing for the campaign towards, as these were the people that possessed the necessary characteristics to be swayed to vote for Trump. They used devised communication within their digital marketing campaigns to “promote the story” to their targeted individuals. All the data research and segregation of groups meant that one groups campaign that they saw online would be completely different from another group, as both these individuals need to be attracted to the cause in a different way, and allows people to believe in the candidate and connect with everyone in a different way- and as a result encourage and increase voting numbers. The main (only) way they could persuade people to vote for Trump- ruin the reputation of Hilary Clinton. The perfect marketing plan wouldn’t you say?
4. Extorting politicians
What is the best way to get politicians on your side during a campaign? Make alliances with them, create a mutual relationship, build friendships through past experiences? No, Cambridge Analytica decided to go for a more hands on method with one of their chief executives appearing to say that they are able to extort other politicians by sending woman to entrap them. A conventional method to win presidency, extort politicians and create fake news regarding them, right? This gave them the endorsement and support that they may have needed to sway voters towards Trump.
A lot of technical stuff isn’t it? In simplified terms, all you have to do to become President is unethically access large quantities of data from unsuspecting participants of surveys, manipulate their data in a way to suit your intentions and create marketing content to drill propaganda into said person, simple right? Is it ethical and morally correct? No. Will it get you off the TV and saying “you’re fired” everyday? Yes.
Since then, Cambridge Analytica has been shut down and under investigation for a number of possible offences they may be held liable for. Does that mean our national reality show treasure like Paul Hollywood or Gemma Collins will never become PM?
I do want to end this on a more positive note, so rather than a detailed dissection on the large global effect Trumps presidency is having on many individuals that belong to minority groups, or his lack of consideration for our rapidly dying planet, I decided to end with a few of my favourite trump memes. Enjoy!