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    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 20, 2019
      This post is by Tony Wikrent I have been looking at the work of Cornell University law professor Robert Hockett, who is serving as an economics adviser to Representative Alexandria Occasio-Cortez. I have been delighted to find that Hockett has been working the same angle I have: applying the classical republicanism that informed the creation of […]
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They mined you.

The Guardian has a long article about how Cambridge Analytica acquired data on Facebook users and then used it to help get Trump elected. I figured as much. If you took a personality test on Facebook, which millions of users did, 40% of you allowed Facebook to use that information in order to target ads to you. In 2016, Steve Bannon teamed up with Cambridge Analytica to change your mind about Trump. Here’s what Cambridge’s Christopher Wylie says Brannon’s philosophy and goal:

“[Bannon] got it immediately. He believes in the whole Andrew Breitbart doctrine that politics is downstream from culture, so to change politics you need to change culture. And fashion trends are a useful proxy for that. Trump is like a pair of Uggs, or Crocs, basically. So how do you get from people thinking ‘Ugh. Totally ugly’ to the moment when everyone is wearing them? That was the inflection point he was looking for.”

How do they do it? How did they target Facebook ads, and probably the whole Trump message directly to you, their targets? It’s all psychology and statistical analysis:

“at Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Centre, two psychologists, Michal Kosinski and David Stillwell, were experimenting with a way of studying personality – by quantifying it.

Starting in 2007, Stillwell, while a student, had devised various apps for Facebook, one of which, a personality quiz called myPersonality, had gone viral. Users were scored on “big five” personality traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism – and in exchange, 40% of them consented to give him access to their Facebook profiles. Suddenly, there was a way of measuring personality traits across the population and correlating scores against Facebook “likes” across millions of people.

The research was original, groundbreaking and had obvious possibilities. “They had a lot of approaches from the security services,” a member of the centre told me. “There was one called You Are What You Like and it was demonstrated to the intelligence services. And it showed these odd patterns; that, for example, people who liked ‘I hate Israel’ on Facebook also tended to like Nike shoes and KitKats.

So, if you are a Nike shoe buyer who likes KitKats, you probably didn’t get a pro-Israel message. On the other hand, if you were a mom who likes designer fashion and buys a status car, you probably got a lot of warm and fuzzy stories about Ivanka.

It was all very well designed to target you. I think the difference in what Cambridge did compared to what other political data and marketing companies did was that they were able to target people very specifically as well as all their Facebook friends. Most marketing companies go after just the neighborhoods or regions based on income etc. But who knows who will be scrutinized next? Maybe the info that you give Giant Eagle every time you buy a certain kind of apple or avoid the steaks can be used as well. That information is very important to people who want to influence you.

Well, at least Cambridge Analytica knew that Trump was an Ugg and they were going to have to push people to vote for him anyway. The question is, why were they trying to force this uniquely unfit man down our throats in order to ruin the country? Was it in service of Brannon’s chaos theory or was it in order to help the Russians? Or are we seeing a convergence of two efforts to get Trump elected that just happened to be reinforcing and synergistic?

Put that into your PLS model and spit out some principle components.


45 Responses

  1. Attention Pittsburghers, Pittsburghians, or whatever you people are! Stop your piratical steeling (not to mention your flappin’ around like Penguins) and get yourself to the Penn Brewing Company, 800 Vinial St., for the Great Wonkette Drinky Thing / Get Your Guns Off My Lawn World Tour! It is TODAY from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. EDT!
    Read more at https://wonkette.com/631389/steel-yourself-for-wonkettes-pittsburgh-drinky-thing-right-this-dang-afternoon#B7fbRa8ILfECivLS.99

    Are you going, RD?

    • I wish. I have to do some work today. 😢

      We’re called Yinzers. Well, some of us are. I never mastered the accent. It just sounds out of place coming out of my mouth.

  2. They mined you illegally! They got your information without your consent. When do you start feeling violated? Or are you too dumb to understand concepts like privacy and trust? Then you the sophisticated first world mfer are a stupid dumb fucker who is no different from a poor schmuck living in a third world country. But at least that guy who may not be a dumb fucker has an excuse – he lives in a country where corruption and thugs rule and problems are generally beyond him. You are getting there.

    Delete your FB account .

    • Not quite true. 40% of the users who took that personality test gave their consent to Facebook to use the data and share it.
      What was hinky was Facebook collected the data from that users’ friends. THAT’S how they targeted thousands and thousands of users. Because your friends are likely to share your views on certain issues. I’ve always been a very reluctant user of Facebook. Obsessively keeping tabs on my friends and family and sharing photos just isn’t my idea of fun. I love them dearly but I’d rather see them in person. The problem is if I don’t use Facebook, I don’t know when they are having get togethers. But using it exposes me to all kinds of information I don’t want. So I use it very very rarely.
      You are responsible for the things you let into your head. I’m wary of any platform that is pushing information to me from people and sources I don’t know or haven’t vetted. They are violating your boundaries and can’t always be trusted.
      Everyone in the world should know this now. There’s no excuse going forward for getting taken for a sucker.

      • RD working on my phone and not easy to link articles and such. The bulk of the data collected is illegal and users were unaware. See the Russian guy Kogan at Cam bridge Univ. How does this FB theft relate to DNC hacking and also Bernie Sanders getting Hillary’s voter registration rolls? Wonder if it all related somehow, wink, wink.

      • As Lambert likes to say, “If you’re not paying for the product, you *are* the product.” This should not have surprised anyone. Deleting your account is probably not sufficient to get them to delete the information they already have on you. It’s like Total Thermonuclear War: the only way to win is not to play ;-).

        Never had a FaceBorg account. Never had a Twit account. I never log into Google and I run a background search obfuscater there. I also change my outbound IP address at frequent but irregular intervals and often use a VPN. I block all trackers, beacons, and cookies and do not respond to ICMP packets. I will never allow a HomePod, Echo, Google Home, or anything like that in my house. No “smart” appliances, light bulbs, or door locks, either.

        Anyone who wants my data is perfectly welcome to perform an anatomically impossible (well, maybe not, if Myra Breckenridge is to be believed) act, as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Facebook is evil! Mark Zuckerberg is a Democrat! IT WAS THE RUSSIANS!

    • Zuckerberg is a greedy buffoon, the unpopular man baby seeking approval and attention. He was an easy target for the mfers.

      • “Zuckerberg is a greedy buffoon, the unpopular man baby seeking approval and attention.”

        And given the results of our most recent election, he is therefore eminently qualified for the highest office in the land ;-).

    • “Mark Zuckerberg is a Democrat!”

      So was Donald Trump, if you’ll recall.

    • Did you actually read my comment for this post?? It’s a given that marketing people and politicians are going to data profile and target us. It’s unavoidable to some extent. It’s up to us to protect ourselves.
      I don’t use Facebook. I have an account but I haven’t updated my profile in like forever. I decided years ago not to accept friend requests from people I don’t know and I don’t hang around my wall waiting for someone to send me some bullshit news article.
      I encourage others to do likewise.
      Mark zuckerberg makes a product. If you like his product, more power to you. As far as I’m concerned, he might as well be distilling whiskey. If you know you have a tendency to overindulge and do stupid things while under the influence, then don’t drink it.

      • Years ago, both Zuck and Bezos gave interviews where they were perfectly up-front about their view that their primary product was going to be customer information. I’m sure Twitter isn’t any different – and you know Google isn’t. These companies aren’t “social media platforms”, “retailers”, or “search platforms”. They’re data mining firms.

        If some anonymous jerk on the internet sent you an email asking for a list of all your friends and relatives, your political opinions, your organizational affiliations, your address, your whereabouts pretty much all the time (if you own an Android phone or sign into Google to use Google Maps), you’d send it straight to the “Junk” folder. Dress it up with the ostensible ability to make inane 140 (now 280!) character comments to perfect strangers and for some reason most people will willingly volunteer that stuff.

        As Glenn Reynolds likes to say in his saner moments, “The 21st Century is not turning out as I had hoped.”

    • It says a lot more about the limp-wristed enforcement of securities laws under the last two administrations than it does about women in STEM.

      She’s a sociopath and a con artist – she belongs in prison.

    • Pharma R&D types do not support or defend people like Elizabeth Holmes or Martin Shkreli.
      Finance types might. But we try to have as few interactions with financiers as possible.
      But how could you know that, Niles? You’ve probably never set foot in a lab. Most people haven’t. Labrats tend to be very ethical people. They have to be because we all have to present our work to each other and are challenged all the time. You need to be a team player to do science and that kind of weeds out the Elizabeths and the martins.

      • Right, the existence of a female criminal with some STEM training doesn’t say anything more about “women in STEM” than the existence of a male criminal with, purely hypothetically, a law degree says about “men in the legal profession”.

        Unfortunately, the Feds are barely slapping her wrists for this. She should be doing Federal time. Instead, she’s being fined $500,000 for perpetrating a $750 million fraud.

        In 2008, I said that I wasn’t sure whether to be proud or ashamed that investment bankers and derivatives traders weren’t hanging from the lampposts. It’s taken a decade, but I think I’ve finally come to a definite conclusion about that.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Niles. It’s our responsibility to guard ourselves against psychological manipulation. And Facebook was designed for manipulation and marketing.
      But Niles your guy is unraveling. And as much as the Republicans want to keep him around as their useful idiot, he’s certifiable and dangerous. The Trump Crime Family is now in the White House. You may want to rethink your allegiance.

    • Well, trump used and got used by the Russians. They were not using FB and disrupting our elections for nothing. All kinds of election laws have been broken. People like you are ok with a foreign adversary meddling with the election because your guy got elected. You are worse than the stupid nincompoops who believed the outrageous stories about Hillary on FB. Because you are still invested in defending him even when you understand Russia helped your guy get elected.

      • The truth is none of what the Russians did nor what Facebook did would have worked if there were not idiots that believed it.

        • True, but the Russian ad campaign targeted a lot of people on the Left as well as the Right. I’m not sure whether the problem is “idiots” so much as it is a lack of critical thinking skills – especially when it comes to stuff on the Internet. The “stovepiping” of discussion on blogs doesn’t help much either, since it produces a positive feedback loop that seems to prevent people from listening to (or even regarding as human) anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

          I offer the gullibility of the readers of a certain other blog with respect to stories about “Pizzagate” and various occult practices on the part of the Podestas as evidence (and, of course, some of Joe Cannon’s more dubious posts as evidence from the other side of the political coin).

          This seems to be a widespread problem, and it’s not confined to any particular end of the political spectrum.

          • Would that certain other blog be named after a freshwater crustacean?

    • It would have been very difficult for Cicero to have said this in 42 BCE, since he died in 43. Just sayin..

      • I should also point out that, IMO, Cicero was for most of his career an opportunistic hack who made extensive use of personal innuendo and abuse of legal process to climb over his political opponents (occasionally getting them exiled or executed in the process). If he were alive today, he’d give Trump’s tweets a run for their money.

        He spent most of his career sucking up to the Roman upper class in an effort to curry their favor (he was a novus homo trying to rise above his humble origins in any way possible) by denigrating the populares who were advocating for giving common people more power in the Republic.

        He managed to make himself very wealthy and very powerful in the process, but he was hardly what most Americans would think of as a champion of representative government.

        • I cheerfully admit to not being an expert on ancient Rome, but the quote above describes Cheeto Benito and his minions well.

          BTW, I didn’t make the “poster”. I don’t know how.

  4. You should read the whole thread.

    • Wylie may have worked on Obama’s campaign. But there were no foreigners helping Obama and he didn’t spread outright lies and fake stories about his opponent that spread like wild fire.

      • Wylie is Canadian. He couldn’t have worked for Obama’s campaign.

        • To be obsessively picky: The article never says he “worked for Obama’s campaign.” All it says is

          “[A]t 18, he went to learn all things data from Obama’s national director of targeting, which he then introduced to Canada for the Liberal party. ”

          That’s a pretty ambiguous statement and doesn’t necessarily mean that he actually worked on the campaign itself.

          There’s nothing necessarily illegal about foreign nationals being *hired* or *contracted* indirectly by US campaigns, as long as they’re not being employed in a strategic capacity and as long as they’re authorized to work in the US. They can’t volunteer, because that counts as an illegal foreign campaign contribution, IIRC.

  5. Cambridge Analytica took the information they got from Facebook some of which was stolen and then used it for psychological warfare. I have to say I know people who it worked on. Obviously the poster above the psychological warfare worked on. The Russians certainly found a lot of useful idiots but unfortunately they were not all on the right. There were plenty on the left like Bernie supporters and Jill Stein supporters that succumbed to the psychological warfare too.

    • The Russians, and before the Russians, the GOP and the wingnut media.

      Just enough left-leaners and moderates believed just enough of the lies about the Clintons that they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary (and before her, for Gore in 2000).

      Oh, they were not stupid enough to believe she murdered Vince Foster in the (non-existent) basement of Comet Ping Pong Pizza, then celebrated by molesting a moppet or two while shouting “Allahu Akbar!”–but they swallowed the more mundane lies.

      The anti-Clinton smear campaign is going to go down as one of the most successful propaganda operations in U. S. history. It didn’t keep Bill out of the White House, but it did force him to face a rabid wingnut Congress for most of his terms, and it kept his veep and his wife from becoming Prez in their turns. 😡

  6. Our wingnuts adore Putin and tolerate, or at least deny, his country’s interference in our elections.

    They remind me of those right-wingers in the 1930s, in the future Allied countries, who admired Hitler and Mussolini.

    I will not mince words. They are the enemy within. See Cicero above.

    • One could probably lump some of the more strident advocates of overturning an election (in a few notable cases, by an intelligence agency coup d’etat) in with them. There’s plenty of stupid to go around.

      And, as I pointed out, the date on that citation is a year after Cicero’s death (and Cicero wasn’t the champion of representative governement you seem to think he was).

      • You try my patience, sir. If this were Disqus, I would probably block you.

        • Really, Disqus is so much nicer than WordPress. You don’t have to put up with pencil-peckered stormtrooper-wannabes OR well-meaning but naive fellows who twist themselves into pretzels trying to be fair to the stormtrooper-wannabes.

  7. From “Lefty Wright” on Wonkette:

    Well, ya gotta admit, it would not have worked so well if there were not tens of millions of Americans who were dumb as stumps when it came to any reasoning or research on issues. Including analyzing what were facts, what were lies, and what were just wild ass promises with no possibility of ever being implemented.

    Everybody with just a high school diploma wants a $30 an hour union job with great benefits, but you are not going to get a company paying $5 an hour in Mexico to close up and move to the US. For one thing, they would go bankrupt unless they automated the plant so they could get the same output with 1/8 the employees they had in Mexico. Second, they would relocate in a non union state and pay $15 an hour. But the laid off union workers in Michigan never could wrap their brains around that.

    They believed a 70 year old guy who spent his whole life scamming people like them and screwing anyone he could to steal a buck was going to reopen the factory down the street that closed 15 years ago. On the ridiculous and unexplained promise of he would make great deals. That’s as stupid as believing if you give me $10,000 I will go down to the Mercedes dealer and get you a new E300 because I make great deals. A month after he drops that new car off, you find out he forged your signature on a loan document with fake income info, paid $5,000 down, kept $5,000 himself, and left you with a big car payment.

    He never had a plan to bring jobs back, he never had a plan to offer better, cheaper health insurance to more people, he never had a plan for tax cuts that helped the average taxpayer and he never had a plan to make America great again. He had a plan to make more money for himself. And over 60 million voters were stupid enough to believe him, and most of them still believe his lies.

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