Yesterday, Facebook’s stock tanked after it was revealed that they gave user data to a firm, Global Science Research (GSR), via an app. This data was then given to Cambridge Analytica, a firm that was working for Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The app not only gave GSR the data of the user who filled out the survey, but also that of all of the user’s friends without them knowing it. Some have noted a similar mining tool used by the Obama team, but they gathered information through their website (with permission from those who engaged) and the armies of volunteers, which was then matched with voter profiles. At the same time, these users also gave permission to have their friends data siphoned; their friends gave no such consent. Yes, still a bit creepy, especially since the campaign boasted that they probably knew every single one of the 67+ million voters who supported President Obama in 2012.
Last night, footage was released of Cambridge Analytica’s top executives pitching dirty political tricks, like video of a candidate accepting a bribe, girls around the candidate’s house, and even good ole’ misinformation. The firm has denied ever using any of the tactics discussed and this isn’t necessarily earth-shattering news in the skulky world of nail biter campaigns, but it adds to the bad optics that both Facebook and Cambridge have reaped since Christopher Wylie, the brainchild of the firm, came forward to spill the inner workings of this company. Facebook certainly knew that something was up concerning user data given the sheer volume GSR was mining from the app MyPersonality. But we’re not going to discuss Cambridge. We’re discussing what many of you have noted on various social media platforms about the inherent left wing bias ingrained in the services. Well, one former data officer for the Obama campaign, Carol Davidsen, admitted that Facebook allowed them to break the rules because they were on their side.
First, she tweeted a Time magazine piece showing what the 2012 campaign did to gather information:
In the final weeks before Election Day, a scary statistic emerged from the databases at Barack Obama’s Chicago headquarters: half the campaign’s targeted swing-state voters under age 29 had no listed phone number. They lived in the cellular shadows, effectively immune to traditional get-out-the-vote efforts.
For a campaign dependent on a big youth turnout, this could have been a crisis. But the Obama team had a solution in place: a Facebook application that will transform the way campaigns are conducted in the future. For supporters, the app appeared to be just another way to digitally connect to the campaign. But to the Windy City number crunchers, it was a game changer. “I think this will wind up being the most groundbreaking piece of technology developed for this campaign,” says Teddy Goff, the Obama campaign’s digital director.
That’s because the more than 1 million Obama backers who signed up for the app gave the campaign permission to look at their Facebook friend lists. In an instant, the campaign had a way to see the hidden young voters. Roughly 85% of those without a listed phone number could be found in the uploaded friend lists. What’s more, Facebook offered an ideal way to reach them. “People don’t trust campaigns. They don’t even trust media organizations,” says Goff. “Who do they trust? Their friends.”
Davidsen then detailed on Twitter how representatives from the social media company were surprised how much data they mined, adding that they were “very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.”
An example of how we used that data to append to our email lists. pic.twitter.com/VHhSukvXDY— Carol Davidsen (@cld276) March 19, 2018
Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.— Carol Davidsen (@cld276) March 19, 2018
They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.— Carol Davidsen (@cld276) March 19, 2018
I am also 100% positive that Facebook activity recruits and staffs people that are on the other side.— Carol Davidsen (@cld276) March 19, 2018
So, there you have it; something that you probably already knew, but here you have a name and an admission to throw out there in your fights with liberals. Davidesen added that she’s 100% sure that Facebook recruits folks to handle the GOP side of things, but what we know for sure is that the tech giant was willing to allow one campaign to break the rules because they agreed with their agenda. RedState’s Brandon Morse sums it up pretty well:
The question now is just how much is a social media network willing to allow a campaign, activist group, or politician to get away with due to the fact that they line up politically or ideologically.
But more frightening than that. If Davidsen’s guess as to whether or not they were allowing the same to happen on the Republican end proves to be wrong, then it’s scary to think that elections are being meddled in by the very corporations who have proclaimed they will fight it tooth and nail.
What we have here is an admission from a Democratic campaign manager that the most powerful social media platform in the first world is currently lending its untold amounts of data to a specific political party’s purposes.
(H/T Alex Griswold)