"People 55 and older have a three times higher propensity to click"
August 5, 2019 11:39 AM   Subscribe

'Way ahead of the field': inside Trump's unprecedented social media campaign (Guardian) Donald Trump spent more than $11.1m on Facebook and Google ads alone in the first six months of 2019 Trump is using Facebook ads to lie about his opponents (Popular Information), Trump is using stock video of 'supporters' (Gizmodo), Donald Trump has run roughly 2,200 Facebook ads using the word 'invasion' since May 2018 (Newsweek))

Facebook ads funded by 'dark money' are the right's weapon for 2020 (Guardian) The right and conservative media are using the untraceable ads to push a rightwing agenda and get Donald Trump re-elected

Facebook is ripe for exploitation – again – in 2020 (Siva Vaidhyanathan, Guardian Opinion) Facebook claims to have cleaned up its act. But the platform remains vulnerable to the same sorts of divisive propaganda

Ad tool Facebook built to fight discrimination doesn't work as advertised (NYT) Facebook transparency effort fails to stop shady political ads (Politico) Facebook was fined $5 billion by the FTC for not protecting users' privacy (Digital Trends) As the controversy mounts, Facebook still seems to click (Guardian) "The California-headquartered company is expected to reveal profits of $5.4bn for the three months to June, according to an average of estimates collected by S&P Global Market Intelligence. If the analysts are correct, that would represent Facebook’s second-best quarter on record, beaten only by the bumper $6.88bn profits made in the final three months of 2018." Facebook's latest profits show FTC fine is a blip (WaPo) The social network said its second-quarter revenue, which is driven by advertising, grew by 28 percent to $16.9 billion, beating analysts’ estimates of $16.49 billion. Net profit fell 49 percent from the same period a year earlier to $2.6 billion, dragged down by the FTC penalty.
posted by box (40 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
McConnell refuses to let any bills even come up for a vote that he feels will harm Republican election chances, so Facebook remains an open territory for election abuse. So don't expect this to change any time soon.
posted by hippybear at 11:54 AM on August 5, 2019 [9 favorites]

The phrase "divisive propaganda" is emotionally satisfying but doesn't offer much usefulness; sadly lots of people actually have those beliefs, which the Right's communications efforts are good at reinforcing and extending.

This information about what Trump is up to, though, is a great call to arms for our side. Sadly I don't think the official Democratic party committees (DNC, DSCC, DCCC) have a clue about how to use social media. Can't wait for our nominee to become apparent, so their efforts (especially those of their own social media experts) can turn to fighting the messaging war enough to beat Trump.
posted by PhineasGage at 12:24 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had blissfully avoided the conservative facebook ads in the past, but just this week I've gotten a bunch - this apparently explains it, unless I accidentally clicked the wrong thing somewhere (Facebook also helpfully 'suggests' those crappy impractical cooking videos and sports videos, neither of which have any appeal to me and yet never stop).

When I get those ads, Facebook does offer me the opportunity to mark the ad as "false news", but yet others keep coming.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:36 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

infestation....vermin....the language of white supremacy

It's the language of genocide. In Rwanda, the hate propaganda radio broadcasts leading up to the massacres hammered away at calling the Tutsi "cockroaches". The Nazis favored metaphors of disease and biological inefction, I think; it comes to the same thing.
posted by thelonius at 12:39 PM on August 5, 2019 [73 favorites]

how do we deprogram/reprogram the olds for ourselves.

how do we get them to fear trump.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:42 PM on August 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

I just turned 55, I guess I need to start clicking.
posted by octothorpe at 1:07 PM on August 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

how do we get them to...

I was gonna say, "wait 30 years," but then i realized that my assumption -- that future old gen-X-ers would prefer Smashing Pumpkins nostalgia videos to race-war bait -- was maybe a bit off the mark.
posted by klanawa at 2:09 PM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

This isn't unprecedented. This is exactly what Cambridge Analytica helped enable in the run up to Rump's 2016 election success. It follows quite naturally that he'd be spending millions on the same shitty, shady tactics to keep himself in office as the ones that got him there in the first place.

As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Meaning, it would be very sane to expect a Rump 2020 win. We're not learning from our mistakes.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

I literally just bought a used copy of Mellon Collie on eBay so don’t give up the dream
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:20 PM on August 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

Calling them shitty, shady tactics is not helpful - it risks making folks on our side squeamish about using the same tactics. It's POLITICAL MARKETING and COMMUNICATIONS. No more, no less. We just have to be more aggressive and more effective at using the same damn tools to identify, inform, persuade, and motivate voters to support our candidates.
posted by PhineasGage at 2:38 PM on August 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

>I just turned 55, I guess I need to start clicking.<
I guess I have been clicking for four years and NEVER KNEW IT....
posted by twidget at 2:59 PM on August 5, 2019

They are shady and shitty though. Their message consists entirely of lies and incitement. What, specifically, do you propose that Democrats should say that would be effective? What lies (let alone truths) could the Democrats tell, what action could they incite their supporters to? If you've got the problem licked, don't be afraid to spell it out.

(And who is "we" exactly? A lot of people have been through this exercise of subjugating their own political goals to the singular need to defeat the One Bad Guy. It happens often enough that you might begin to think it's been part of the plan all along.)
posted by klanawa at 3:03 PM on August 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

This is...very doom-y.

Anyone have anything that suggests we aren’t completely fucked and powerless to stop it?
posted by schadenfrau at 3:04 PM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


If you don't like my description of it, you'll probably definitely disagree with the DOJ and Federal Election Commission's position that it violates US criminal code - aka amounts to electoral fraud.

But you know, tomato tomahto.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:09 PM on August 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

From the past: "The pair of complaints, brought by the nonpartisan government watchdog Common Cause, call on federal prosecutors and regulators to investigate whether the UK-based data analytics group violated a US law barring foreign nationals from participating in certain election-related activities through its work for Donald Trump’s campaign." [emphasis mine]

From the original post above, about the current situation: "Donald Trump spent more than $11.1m on Facebook and Google ads alone in the first six months of 2019." Let's start buying the damn ads, and doing A/B testing on our messages, to see which are most effective.
posted by PhineasGage at 3:24 PM on August 5, 2019

What are "our" messages? Be specific.
posted by klanawa at 3:27 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Get. Off. Facebook.
posted by agregoli at 3:29 PM on August 5, 2019 [18 favorites]

note for anyone expecting gen x or the millennials to be any better when they age: observe that people in the demographics that tend to vote for decency and goodness instead of murder and blight tend generally to die earlier than people who vote for republicans. this is largely because rich people tend to get access to decent medical care throughout their lives, tend to experience lives that are generally less stressful, tend to live in places where the air and the housing stock are less likely to kill you, tend to be white (and so less exposed to state violence), and, incidentally, tend to vote republican.

people don’t tend to become more conservative as they age. instead, people who fit into conservative demographics tend to live longer.

the inadequate access to basic services and to a decent life imposed in america is functionally equivalent to a slow-moving class war waged by the rich against everyone else, and to a slow-moving race war waged by the whites against everyone else.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:35 PM on August 5, 2019 [37 favorites]

For a range of possible "Our Messages" I refer the reader to any of the wonderful Metafilter megathreads. Arguing here on the Blue about which are the right messages is a lovely exercise, which then needs to be tested among the larger potential electorate to see which are most effective at identifying, informing, persuading, and motivating enough voters to win the upcoming elections. This ain't rocket science (by definition, if the Trumpists can do this!) - it's good old fashioned political advertising. Whatever messages it takes to push McConnell and Trump from control of the U.S. Senate and the White House are fine by me...
posted by PhineasGage at 3:36 PM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Are you concerned? Then go register voters. Don't wait for the party to mount an effort, just go out and do it. Print the forms, stuff them in envelopes, carry them with you, and ask The Question: Are you registered to vote? A lot of people will already be registered, and that's great! It gives you a chance to explain the math: in my bright red state, if only 20% of Dems and Indies registered two people apiece, we would have a strong lead (and there are more than enough unregistered folks here–and probably in your state, too–to do this). We could send someone to DC besides our geriatric senator who believes that climate change is a hoax. We could prevent our state from being in the GOP column for electoral votes. This can be done: all it takes is belief and effort! The great thing about this, is that it CRUSHES despair, which is one of the conservatives' primary weapons.

Progressive positions are widely popular, even in red states. If you start this, there's no telling where it could end. You can do this, and build support for the effort, or you can just stay with the performative effort of raging on social media. Your choice.

Are you willing to be part of a generation that failed to do the hard work necessary to preserve democracy in America? I am most certainly not, and you shouldn't be, either. Almost every fire you've ever seen started with a tiny spark. That spark is all it takes to start the fire that will burn all the horrible things conservatives have done to the our country to the ground.

Take the chance. You can be the spark in your community that changes the political calculus there. You be the spark!
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 3:36 PM on August 5, 2019 [23 favorites]

that said: the way to go after this is to microtarget the children and grandchildren of the people targeted by the right wing attack on democracy. tell people about what ideas and images their parents and grandparents are being shown, and encourage them to take measures to counter those ideas and images.

off the top of my head i think the most effective threat one could make against radicalized seniors is by demanding that they change their votes lest they be denied visitation rights to their grandchildren. vote blue, grandpa, or you won’t be grandpa no more.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:38 PM on August 5, 2019 [10 favorites]

This is a great idea! You can do that, all by yourself. And in doing so, build momentum for others to have their own great idea. We're progressives, right? By definition, we should be open to every possible workable idea, especially if the idea comes with it's own constituency.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 4:29 PM on August 5, 2019

This ain't rocket science (by definition, if the Trumpists can do this!)

This ain't symmetrical warfare. If you want to win on the side of unity and reason you can't, by definition, do it through division and panic, which are the tools of the right. Once you start playing that game, you've already lost. And seriously, if it were possible to deprogram the right through targeted marketing buys, the world would already be a different place.

Arguing here on the Blue about which are the right messages is a lovely exercise

It's not an exercise. The lack of a sufficiently compelling message obviates the entire idea of fighting the right on its own terms through propaganda. I don't believe such a message exists because, in general, liberal/left messaging is necessarily more complex, more nuanced and simply requires more intellectual and emotional work. The entire internet is currently constructed around brief, emotionally impactful messages and at this point in history that kind of messaging exclusively favours the right. Metafilter is an extreme outlier in that regard. If the messaging was simple, the mega threads wouldn't be so... mega, right?

If I'm honest, I don't really have solutions. I'm more on the side of direct social intervention, a la ivanthenotsoterrible (as well as shutting down the propaganda vectors). But again, if that was easy, there wouldn't be so many families irreparably split apart by Facebook hate. The solution to this is going to be generational.

But I know that raging about Democrats' failure to adopt the right's game plan really doesn't get us any closer to a better world. Almost the entirety of Mefites' critiques of Democrats revolves around their obsequiousness to Republicans in terms of messaging. Everyone, right and left, sees it immediately for what it is: cowardice. To employ their propaganda techniques would just be more of the same. Democrats can't play by Republican rules and win.
posted by klanawa at 4:47 PM on August 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

Chiming in to agree with klanawa, and also to say that the most effective way to change the nature of the Democratic party–or any party–is by building power within that party. How do you do that? The best and, thankfully, easiest way is to bring new people into the tent. AOC changed the nature of the conversation by being a new person in the tent.

Just think, for one damn second, about how many AOCs there are out there! If not on the level of getting a seat in the House of Representatives, but on a nuts and bolts level. People who will register voters. Who will show up and shout. They're out there, and you can find them.

Ask people The Question. It's a dead simple way to start the conversation. And it's directly counter to the methods the GOP is using. Organize!
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 5:02 PM on August 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

I occasionally report particularly obnoxious posts on Facebook, but I don't think they've ever done anything about them. Most recently I reported a post in an online yard sale group that I belong to and which in the past few weeks has become infested with the same political memes you see elsewhere and which have nothing to do with the ostensible purpose of the group. Someone posted a picture of Michelle Obama doctored to make it look like she was grabbing a penis (hers) through her dress, with an obnoxious caption that I don't recall but you can imagine the sort of thing that would accompany such a picture. I wasn't even sure which category to classify it as; racist? transphobia? Facebook only lets you choose one. A couple of days later I got a reply saying that the post was fine and I could always block that person's posts if they offend me.

On the other hand a few months ago I got a message from them saying I wasn't allowed to tag photos for a week, with no explanation. I'm not sure I have ever tagged a photo on FB; if I have it has only been myself or a close family member that wouldn't mind. But I can always post the most offensive memes the Russian trolls can come up with, I guess.
posted by TedW at 5:09 PM on August 5, 2019 [11 favorites]

Are you willing to be part of a generation that failed to do the hard work necessary to preserve democracy in America?

I thought I was part of the generation that did the hard work to preserve democracy in America, i.e., another boomer who took the core ideas of a "Great Society" to heart and has been voting (and as much as possible, living) my considerably left of liberal politics for 40+ years.

I don't have the words to describe how horribly disheartening it is to live to see how much hard-fought ground has been lost and that I can't possibly live long enough to see a recovery that's strong enough to believe in.

Good luck to those who try to "be the spark". I'm living in Trump country - for my own sanity, I avoid engaging with the locals. From what I've seen, these folks couldn't be moved with a motherfucking flamethrower.
posted by she's not there at 8:15 PM on August 5, 2019 [13 favorites]

It's either quaint or tragic that people think their 60 year old aunts and uncles might not have believed such shitty stuff if only they'd seen better FB ads.

Your aunts and uncles were shitty racists already.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:50 PM on August 5, 2019 [11 favorites]

Community influence absolutely does change people. Right now, there are people exploiting the rapid shift in what we perceive our communities to be and using it to radicalize people. Even if our aunts and uncles were always shitty racists in their heads, they were more likely to keep it to their damn selves.

There's evidence of how a community can affect people's views and behavior on this very website. It seems difficult to believe that a process that we have seen work to radicalize other groups is somehow having no effect on those aunts and uncles.
posted by wierdo at 3:34 AM on August 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

I absolutely didn't say community influence couldn't change people.

I'm saying people who the ad algorithms think are prime candidates for ads about "infestation" and "invasion" weren't picked out of a hat. They were pretty far gone already. They can be goaded into being worse, sure. But they were not going to be a very special episode of Facebook-ed into being decent human beings. Not any more than that racist in the internet comments is just one perfect comment from a sharp-witted, good-hearted progressive away from changing their mind.

This is not crass pessimism, this is internet 101.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:36 AM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Your aunts and uncles were shitty racists already.

Yeah but things like FB and Fox News push people over the line into being full out radical white supremacists. It's a process of finding the population who are already receptive to that message and magnifying and intensifying it.

I feel blessed that the seniors in my family are all Bernie and/or Warren stans and I don't have to deal with the crap that some of you do.
posted by octothorpe at 5:01 AM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

people aren't much of anything at all. we're a loose bag of tendencies; which of those tendencies get surfaced depends in large part on our social contexts. the Internet is a human tendency search engine that is (among other things) excellent at surfacing fascism and race-hatred.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:02 AM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Another piece of the Facebook playbook is exploiting divisions in the other side. Find a natural division (e.g. Bernie vs Hillary), hand out megaphones to anyone with a toxic message, plant a few people in the crowd to egg them on, and watch the rhetoric amp up. This is part of how micro-targeting works: it isn't just goading people to vote for your side, it's getting people who would vote against you to stay home, because politics is just too noxious.

I guarantee we'll see a replay of that. That plus the year-plus head start in a unified campaign and the tendency for presidents to get re-elected, and it's going to be tough fight.
posted by netowl at 7:05 AM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you want to win on the side of unity

I don't want to win on the side of unity with fascists, cryptonazis, misogynists and racists

I want to win on the side of beating the shit out of fascists, cryptonazis, misogynists and racists

ETA for clarity: I very much do not want actual violence; given the choice I want to beat the shit out of them electorally and socially. "Given the choice" is doing kind of a lot of work there, but for my own mental health I'm going to go ahead and continue to believe that we can still do this without violence. And I think that if we don't beat them peacefully, we'll end up having to fight them, literally.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:19 AM on August 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Watch "The Great Hack" on Netflix. It tells exactly how Cambridge Analytica worked. They ID a flippable voting segment and target them hard. Even though HRC won the popular vote by 3,000,000 it took a mere 70,000 to turn that into an Electoral College win for Trump. In Trinidad (IIRC), they made it cool for a subset of young people to not vote at all -- that's all it took to swing the election.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:26 AM on August 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

I don't know how this country will fare with another four years of this shit. Another rigged election guarantees Trump will win a second term, and after that it seems hard to believe there will be a reprieve. It seems unlikely a legitimate and fair candidate can ever win again. How can we pass reform while someone and their gang are in power and need the cheating to win?
posted by GoblinHoney at 7:49 AM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

this is where i knock on your door wearing a dorky suit and carrying a copy of lenin's the state and revolution and say something like "have you heard the good news of revolutionary workers' councils" and you either slam the door on me or, if you're smart, trick me into doing a bunch of yardwork and home maintenance for you and then slam the door on me.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:46 AM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

In Trinidad (IIRC), they made it cool for a subset of young people to not vote at all -- that's all it took to swing the election.

Yeah, they did that shit here, too. And it worked. Whole lot of young people were really proud of not voting for that Hillary monster.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:13 AM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

It tells exactly how Cambridge Analytica worked. They ID a flippable voting segment and target them hard. . . In Trinidad (IIRC), they made it cool for a subset of young people to not vote at all -- that's all it took to swing the election.

Well , . . . certainly CA successfully markets the idea that they utilize a flippable voting segment. There's no proof they succeed at all. The Republican party and it's voter suppression methods over the last 100 years are way more influential in throwing many more elections here. And will continue to.
posted by Harry Caul at 1:51 PM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

The Great Hack underplays Cambridge Analytica's role. I appreciate that it talks about their role in Brexit, but there's a lot more...
As early as 2014, under Bannon's leadership, Cambridge Analytica was reportedly testing slogans (eg "drain the swamp") which would eventually be used by the Trump campaign. They were working with Trump and his team before Trump even announced his candidacy (and former staffers are now working on the Trump 2020 campaign.) As consultants, Cambridge Analytica “ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy” for Trump, according to Nix. And both John Bolton and Michael Flynn had ties to Cambridge Analytica, Flynn as an advisor, and Bolton (through a PAC) as a customer who spent $1.2 million on polling and "behavioral microtargeting."
Cambridge Analytica tested the popularity of Vladimir Putin among Americans in 2014, at the direction of Steve Bannon. An employee of Cambridge Analytica's parent company named Sam Patten had also worked for many years with Konstantin Kilimnik, the same suspected Russian spy that Paul Manafort met with. (Patten has now pled guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and Kilimnik faces charges of witness tampering.) That parent company also boasted of election interference in brochures.

They "hired known Russian agents, had data researchers in St Petersburg, tested US voter opinion on Putin’s leadership, and hired hackers from Russia - all while Bannon was in charge.

They were also hired by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

And their CEO was caught on video offering services exploiting bribes, ex-spies, fake IDs and sex workers to influence political campaigns.

There are almost certainly shoes yet to drop re: Cambridge Analytica, but even just that stuff is more than just clever ad targeting.
posted by OnceUponATime at 4:18 PM on August 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

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