Muftic: Creepy ways bad actors manipulate voters |

Muftic: Creepy ways bad actors manipulate voters

Felicia Muftic
My View
Felicia Muftic
Courtesy Photo

In the text released by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of the indictment of the 13 Russians who conducted active measures to influence the 2016 U.S. elections lay the kernel of a solution to a mystery that has been bugging me. The disclosure of the use of Facebook by the British firm Cambridge Analytica is also illuminating. Both shed insights into how our social media postings and email messaging are used by U.S. adversaries and campaign strategists to target their bots, blogs, trolls, advertising, fundraising, and effective comments to achieve their goals of increasing political divisions or to support their preferred candidates in America.

They have our thought profiles pegged and it is a darn creepy way to manipulate us.

I have a good friend who is not active politically, but she follows the news both on television and in “news” that pops up when she is using email on her PC. During the 2016 election period she was getting advertisements or news reports that were very different from what I was receiving. I recall specifically a report that Hillary Clinton had conspired to do something quite outrageous sexually and I had never heard of such off the wall accusations anywhere. How was it she was getting “news” I was not? Having been active in politics for sometime, my reaction was that she had been identified as a person who might believe this conspiracy theory or maybe it was to trick her to take the bait with her clicks to reveal or propagate her preference for president. She was being trolled.

Targeting individuals, party affiliation, and certain members of demographic groups for messages to motivate them to act on behalf of a candidate or political organization is a long old practice, but using social media and internet advertising has carried this art into a higher level, allowing political operatives more specifically to target those they want to reach.

The British firm Cambridge Analytica has been accused of taking demographic data and examining psychological and ideological (psychographic) profiles from at least 50 million U.S. Facebook account holders in 2016 to tailor-make messages. The Mueller probe is investigating whether their information may have been shared with Russians and may into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion. The indicted Russians and their organizations were hacking and using social media in the U.S. to better influence your vote or to get you to act on their behalf. The Special Counsel indictment reported the Russian based Internet Research Agency wrote fake news articles and impersonated Americans on social media to manipulate people to promote their agendas. Computational Social Scientists at the University of Southern California reported that American conservatives shared tweets and content from Russian trolls about 30 times more often than liberals right before the 2016 election.

Congress is calling the CEO’s of social media, especially Facebook, back to the Hill to testify to see if there is some sort of regulation that could keep your personal information and your thought processes revealed through internet use more private.

Even in my blog, I have seen a dramatic uptick from questionable visitors to my pages. The Google-based blog system I use tells me from which country my page visitor comes and what links were used to find the blog postings. Last week my greatest “fans “were from Russia and Ukraine, equal each to my U.S. visitors. That is a trend that has become more intense over the past three years. Most of my “fans” and visitors see my Facebook postings that link them to the blog with a simple click. Mystery solved.

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