At what point does the political interest in swaying public opinion during elections cross the line into anti-democratic electoral manipulation, brainwashing?
Grownups know that politics is a dirty business. It attracts a good many scumbags who find a ready home At for their unique talents. America has a rich history of dirty tricksters as explored in this 2012 article from Time Magazine.
Whether it's been robo-calls, race baiting or outright slander, most of it has been tolerated. It's been a "shame on you" affair but little more.
In recent years, the internet and algorithms have been added to the mix with devastating effect. One prominent example now under scrutiny in the UK is a Victoria, B.C. company, Aggregate IQ, and the role it played in putting the "leave" campaign over the top on the Brexit referendum.
Aggregate IQ and one Chris Wylie are said to have developed the software later adopted by Cambridge Analytica, a company owned by Robert Mercer in which Steve Bannon is said to have millions invested.
"It’s no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People don’t know it’s happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs.”
“The danger of not having regulation around the sort of data you can get from Facebook and elsewhere is clear. With this, a computer can actually do psychology, it can predict and potentially control human behaviour. It’s what the scientologists try to do but much more powerful. It’s how you brainwash someone. It’s incredibly dangerous."
Facebook profiles – especially people’s “likes” – could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. ...with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. “Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves.”
While the Brits investigate Aggregate IQ, special counsel Robert Mueller has his sights on Cambridge Analytica.
Kushner hired a man named Brad Parscale, a Texas-based digital expert who had worked previously for team Trump. According to Confessore and Hakim, Cambridge Analytica convinced Parscale (who has since agreed to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee) to “try out the firm.” The decision was reinforced by Trump’s campaign manager, Steve Bannon, who is also a former vice president of Cambridge Analytica.