We use Google.
Search out independent voters based on their search histories or self-identification. These are our targets. Our goal is to set up algorithms, automated rules, that serve up biased search results to these individuals and move them toward our candidate. How do we do this? Massive data farms. We categorize individuals based on their search histories (e.g., ‘loves the outdoors’, ‘has libertarian leanings’) and develop messages for those categories favorable to our ‘product’ the candidate. Next time our independent voter performs a search he is served up results catering to our interests. It’s advertising 101 applied to politics at a very personalized level.
But we can do even better
Our first line of attack is via the Google search engine itself. You type in a search term and at the top of the stack you find articles hand-selected or written by our staff. You have a parent with Alzheimer’s and our candidate favors embryonic stem cell research. You end up visiting an official blog cum press release that depicts embryonic stem cells as a promising cure. You type in a search term and summaries show up tailored to our message. Even if you don’t click through to the underlying web page, you’ve already received the subliminal message just by scanning the summaries.
Try the following. Block all Google Inc. url’s in your router (here). 80% of the web disappears, including .com, .edu, .gov, .org and others. Most sites use Google widgets, videos, tracking, adverts, maps, fonts, translation or other bits of computer code, which must be first served up by Google machines before your chosen website is allowed to display. Even if you never visit google.com (or youtube.com) Google knows everything it needs to know about you: the webpages you visit, the causes you support, the food you eat. Install Google Chrome or buy a Chromebook and they get the remaining 20%. Google decides which adverts to display on many of your favorite websites, and serves up our candidate’s message using tantalizing Truth-o-Meter, Top-Ten-Things-You-Don’t-Know or Celebrity-Exposed click-throughs.
You can only know what you are served up. Pay Google, Inc. enough money and your competitor’s websites will be poorly indexed, indexed only after the election, indexed only in certain geographies, or not indexed at all.
Most people cannot independently verify claims made on the web. So if our propaganda is sufficiently subtle, hinting rather than screaming, it will most likely slip past your skeptical filters. Better yet I’ll swamp your filter with obvious deceptions which then allows my more subtle ones to pass freely.
Of course, if your search history shows a low level of skepticism we can safely ratchet up the volume.
Each one of us has a trigger point. Data mining allows candidates to identify those points and drive home their message in a way that pulls your trigger. No one is immune no matter their educational level.
It’s Edward Bernays on steroids.