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Social Media as Weaponry

Social Media as Weaponry

The concept is simple: Mine Facebook for Likes and customize news feeds based on those Likes

Fake News Sways Public Opinion One Person at a Time

Donald Trump Paid Data-Mining Firm Millions

“This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go.” – Jonathan Albright, Elon University researcher



The except above is from an article describing the use of fake news on social media to prey upon readers’ preconceptions to either counter or reinforce beliefs – and not just on an ad hoc basis, but as part of a strategic data-mining campaign rooted in, of all things, a person’s Facebook Likes.

The article, “The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine,” appearing on the technology site scout.ai, explores the allegation that fake news propaganda was employed by the Donald Trump campaign and, before that, by Trump’s chief rival, “Lying Ted Cruz.”

The concept is simple: Mine Facebook for Likes and customize news feeds based on those Likes.

Correlating Facebook Likes with scores from a standard personality test called OCEAN, researchers were able to identify an individual’s gender, sexuality, political beliefs, and personality traits.

That was four years ago.

According to the article, in 2016, with just 10 Likes, a program could appraise a person’s character better than a coworker could; with 70, it could know a person better than a friend; with 150 Likes, better than his or her parents; with 300, better than his or her partner.

“With even more Likes, it could exceed what a person thinks they know about themselves,” wrote the article’s authors, Berit Anderson and Brett Horvath.

Combine that with a plethora of sites serving up fake news through “dark posts” visible only to the user, and you have “Weaponized AI.”

The Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica, a British company that pioneered the concept. Trump’s advisor, Steve Bannon, sat on the company’s board until recently. His recently fired national security advisor, Michael Flynn, consulted for the company.

Bottom line: when Donald Trump rails about “fake news,” his hypocrisy knows no bounds. He knows what fake news is because he paid millions of dollars to generate it.

Dan Vukelich is the editor of ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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Johnny Vizcaino is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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