Big Data Meets Big Government
If there is one thing that this administration understands, it is the power of persuasion. Technology and social media enabled more targeted methods of persuading voters, who are ever more susceptible to this type of messaging. Now it will be coming from the most powerful entity in the world, the United States Government.
Making Their Pitch
After playing an integral role in the online messaging strategy of the Trump campaign, the data mining experts at Cambridge Analytica are now transitioning to official state propaganda. SCL, the parent company of Cambridge, who has ties to Steve Bannon, is aggressively pursuing contracts with the new administration. From the Washington Post:
As part of its outreach to U.S. officials, SCL is touting more than 20 years of experience in shaping voter perceptions and advising militaries and governments around the world on how to conduct effective psychological operations. In materials obtained by The Washington Post, the company suggests it could help the Pentagon and other government agencies with “counter radicalization” programs. At the State Department, SCL is offering to assess the impact of foreign propaganda campaigns, while the company says it could provide intelligence agencies with predictions and insight on emerging threats, among other services.
We are seeing the merging of this awesome power of big data analytics with the omnipotent reach of the surveillance state in order to more effectively conduct psychological operations (psy-ops).
Shaping Voter Perceptions
SCL has been in this business for a while now, and they are old hands at manipulating public opinion. Thier techniques are highly sophisticated and specifically targeted:
[SCL] gathers vast quantities of data about an audience’s values, attitudes and beliefs, identifying groups of “persuadables” and then targeting them with tailored messages
Perhaps the most damning indictment came from the company itself, first from the creepy CEO Alexander Nix:
SCL, which says it has worked in 100 countries, offers military clients techniques in “soft power.” Nix described it as a modern-day upgrade of early efforts to win over a foreign population by dropping propaganda leaflets from the air.
And then from an ex-MI6 agent turned SCL company man:
In a 2015 article for a NATO publication, Steve Tatham, a British military psyops expert who leads SCL’s defense business outside of the United States, explained that one of the benefits of using the company’s techniques is that it “can be undertaken covertly.”
“Audience groups are not necessarily aware that they are the research subjects and government’s role and/or third parties can be invisible,” he wrote.
If this is what they will admit to, it is hard to imagine what they are busy implementing as we speak. With the power of the state, and the sinister direction of this administration, the possibilities are frightening.