Cambridge Analytica: Compromising Democracy On A Global Scale

After the Netflix documentary “The Great Hack” (Amer and Noujaim, 2019) was released earlier this year, I was prompted to learn more about how a British based analytics company could influence, and ultimately make a mockery of, the state of democracy around the globe, over the last 25 years. It has been well documented by whistleblowers and journalists that what SCL/CA did as their business model was a form of digital neo-colonialism and exploited political dynamics without fully understanding their consequences (Canton, 2018). They often helped their clients (who can afford their services) manipulate the public with psychographic and behavioural research and targeting, using multiple forms of media, Big Data, and multiple digital technologies to pull it off (González, 2017). Most notably, Cambridge Analytica had a hand in both the Brexit campaign in the UK and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, two politically nationalist campaigns coming out on top and polarising the population as the rest of the world watched in awe (Cadwalladr, 2017).

The inception of this project came from an image that Quartz used in their article “Mapped: The breathtaking global reach of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company” (Ghoshal, 2019), visually demonstrating just how vast CA & SCL’s reach was and how intertwined they were with global democratic processes. However, for my project, I wanted to showcase something a little more interactive and detailed, then compiled them for a light take on some pretty unnerving activities. Using an easy to navigate power-point (acting as a website beta of sorts), I’ve created (visually overwhelming) summaries of for the countries displayed on the map just what Cambridge Analytica/SCL did, where, and when they did it, which you can reach by clicking a country on the map.

Although the experience of making this interactive map has been gruelling to wade through sources from multiple languages and countries of origins to receive the information I needed, it was extremely gratifying but horrifying to be more informed and be able to inform others, on how data (personal and gross) has been used to influence democratic processes around the world (Ghoshal, 2019). I believe there is a multifaceted learning utility for my project as it provides important information on how countries were both harmed and helped (from a Western perspective) by the involvement of SCL/CA and this information can be used to potentially help prevent the mass manipulation happening in future.

If I were to manage a project like this again, I would like to do it in an actual functioning website format so that I could link my sources in the project itself and have the freedom to embed audiovisuals to enhance the user experience. I would also like to include countries that were left off of the map that Quartz used such as the impacted Caribbean countries and Mauritius (Ghoshal, 2019).

However, I believe I’ve utilised my chosen medium well and the learning experience was overall beneficial to become more aware and invested in the knowledge of clandestine political operations, even though the overall process was emotionally taxing.

 

DOWNLOAD MAP HERE:

CA Interactive Map


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Tamkutė, K. (2019). Didysis „nulaužimas“: „Netflix“ juostoje apie „Cambridge Analytica“ ­­– dėmesys Lietuvai. [online] alfa.lt. Available at: https://www.alfa.lt/straipsnis/50398409/didysis-nulauzimas-netflix-juostoje-apie-cambridge-analytica-demesys-lietuvai [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

Tan, L. (2018). Duterte denies campaign deals with Cambridge Analytica. [online] cnn. Available at: https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2018/04/13/Duterte-2016-election-Cambridge-Analytica.html [Accessed 26 Oct. 2019].

Tatham, S. (2015). IOTA Global assists NATO COE in training Moldova Government in Strategic Communication. [online] Linkedin.com. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/iota-global-assists-nato-coe-training-moldova-steve-tatham-ph-d- [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

Tatham, S. (2015). TARGET AUDIENCE ANALYSIS. [ebook] Three Swords Magazine, pp.50-53. Available at: http://www.jwc.nato.int/images/stories/threeswords/TAA.pdf [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

Terleckas, R. (2019). Rinkimus laimėti Lietuvoje pakaktų kelių šimtų tūkstančių. [online] Rita.lt. Available at: https://rita.lt/naujiena/Cambridge%20Analytica [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

Thelocal.it. (2018). Cambridge Analytica may have had data of over 200,000 Italians. [online] Available at: https://www.thelocal.it/20180405/cambridge-analytica-may-have-had-facebook-data-of-over-200000-italians [Accessed 29 Nov. 2019].

The Straits Times. (2018). Controversial firm Cambridge Analytica linked to South-east Asia. [online] Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/controversial-firm-linked-to-s-e-asia [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].

The Washington Post. (2005). Hundreds Arrested in Nepal at Rallies Urging Return to Democracy. [online] Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34983-2005Mar14.html [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

Tirana Times. (2018). Skandali Cambridge Analytica, midis shteteve qe kanë marrë shërbimet e tyre është edhe Shqipëria. [online] Available at: https://tirana-times.blogspot.com/2018/03/skandali-cambridge-analytica-midis.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2019].

Townsend, M. (2018). Foreign Office officials met Cambridge Analytica over Trump. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/28/foreign-office-links-cambridge-analytica [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

Turp, C. (2018). Cambridge Analytica Had Sights on 2016 Romanian Election – Emerging Europe | News, Intelligence, Community. [online] Emerging Europe | News, Intelligence, Community. Available at: https://emerging-europe.com/news/cambridge-analytica-sights-2016-romanian-election/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2019].

Украинская правда. (2018). “Мать” скандальной Cambridge Analytica работала и в Украине. [online] Available at: https://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2018/03/29/7176155/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].

Weinberger, S. (2005). Slate’s Use of Your Data. [online] Slate Magazine. Available at: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2005/09/psy-ops-propaganda-goes-mainstream.html [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

Woro Yuniar, R. (2018). Indonesia tech firms feel heat after Facebook data leak. [online] South China Morning Post. Available at: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/business/article/2143763/facebooks-cambridge-analytica-scandal-puts-indonesias-tech-firms [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

WowShack. (2018). How Cambridge Analytica Was Used In Indonesia… | WowShack. [online] Available at: https://www.wowshack.com/cambridge-analytica-used-indonesia/ [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

 

@intersectional_future: An Instagram Experiment

Over the semester I have been developing an Instagram dedicated to people that are shaping a better future for generations to come while overcoming intersecting forms of oppression that have systematically been put in place. As I constructed this Digital Artefact, I made sure that I would exclusively post achieved women or gender non-conforming people of colour and address why their increasingly visible presence and representation is important for our future society. As I stated in my pitch, many different forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, ableism and queerphobia can intersect and therefore the journey to success is just that much more difficult for those identifying with intersecting marginalised groups (Carastathis 2014).

This project is a visual representation that addresses an imagined future with the basis of the need for increased representation of women inflicted with multiple forms of oppression in politics, sport, media, academia, STEM and in everyday workplace or social settings. Although there is observed evidence of increased representation within media and politics, it is nowhere near sufficient as long as the systems of oppression are still very much present (Tasevski 2018). My project, “@intersectional_future”, imagines a future where the people I have highlighted would be at the forefront of representation in all communities and their success would no longer be extraordinary as the systems of oppression would cease to exist. This is especially important within politics as in Australia, a country which prides itself on multiculturalism only 5% of senior leaders are of non-European and Indigenous background despite making up approximately 24% of the population and even less are women, LGBTQIA+, or disabled (Cave 2018). These are voices that deserve to be heard, seen and represented however at this point in time, it is lacking quite severely.

Over the semester, I have curated pictures of different people from around the globe not only finding success but also paving the way for the groups they represent. I have also received helpful feedback from my peers on how I can improve one of my biggest issues which was irregular posting. Before presenting my Beta, I would post twice in a week and then not post for multiple weeks due to poor organisational issues and unforeseen circumstances that prevented me from posting regularly at the detriment of the project. However, after receiving some feedback I have found that setting reminders have helped me to keep those posts on my radar at least weekly. I am disappointed that I wasn’t as dedicated to this DA as I originally hoped to be as there are still more people I would love to post about, however I’m glad that the format of the DA allows me to continue building this project for years to come. Overall, I have enjoyed making these posts and educating those interested about the importance of intersectional feminism and representation, and a user-centric medium like Instagram has made it possible to deliver content to the masses recognising actions and voices that are consistently forgotten about in the conversation.

 


References

Carastathis, A. (2014). The Concept of Intersectionality in Feminist Theory. Philosophy Compass, 9(5), pp.304-314.

Cave, D. (2018). In a Proudly Diverse Australia, White People Still Run Almost Everything. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/10/world/australia/study-diversity-multicultural.html [Accessed 7 Jun. 2019].

Tasevski, O. (2018). Australia’s Parliament looks nothing like its community. A quota would help fix it. [online] ABC News. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-16/ethnic-diversity-quotas-multicultural-australian-parliament/9538954 [Accessed 7 Jun. 2019].

Commenting On My Comments – Deux

Catching you up from my last commenting reflection post, I was assigned another three digital artefacts to relay my renowned wisdom and feedback unto and theirs unto me. Each project was fairly clear as now they were in the Beta stage and thus more developed than the pitches. This means that for each comment I made I outline the traits of the project I found interesting and if there were any topics or information that related to their project they might find useful.

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Felicia’s project explored the the future of A.I.  in journalism through interviews and gaining opinions on the subject. In this comment, I thought it might be helpful to investigate the ethical concerns of A.I. in journalism. I gave a link to an ethical checklist for robot journalism discussing… and a link to a paper that discusses the ethics behind the person creating the algorithms for automated news.

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Georgia’s project focuses on the physical and psychological effects of image manipulation. This project although a good idea, lacked any diversity and so far has not shown how image manipulation and beauty standards are oppressive towards minorities in western society. Therefore I gave a couple of links that discussed issues with photo augmentation through filters used on media such as snapchat. One article the the problematic nature of gender swapping through a filter while transgender and gender non-conforming people are very much criticised and ostracised for this behaviour. Another discusses the issue of skin lightening through snapchat filters that are supposed to nix your features of “flaws” which is highly problematic given dark skin is definitely not a flaw.

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Phillip presented an interesting project that he utilised well for developing his profession within the music industry. He chose to develop his Instagram accounts while studying how there is a possibility for change in focus for Instagram onto aesthetics rather than likes in future. I suggested to perhaps looking into cross promotion as he was looking into gaining a wider reach for his record label. Therefore I gave a couple of links on social media marketing that hopefully would be useful for his project.

Again this exercise has been useful to develop my own project as well as hopefully helping with my peers’ projects. The feedback on my project outside of this class has been quite minimal so this exercise has been quite informative as I have again gained more insightful feedback for the final developments on my project. I felt that this time the feedback would be more helpful if I gave suggestions on how to develop rather than concentrate on any appraisals or criticisms I had on the project or the Beta delivery. Overall, again this has been quite a valuable experience and I’ve found this exercise very helpful in developing my skills. I hope that my input helped my peers in finalising their digital artefacts and perhaps giving them a suggestion or resource that they haven’t previously thought of before.

 

Intersectional Future – Where I’m At

This post is a little catch up on where I’m at with my project Intersectional Future. So far there is definite room for improvement, in which I have outlined a few ways I have addressed some issues that were highlighted by myself and by my peers. I hope to continue my work in highlighting the many intersecting forms of oppression that many people face, how they overcome it, how it’s shown in the media 10 years ago, how those facing oppression are reported on in the present, how those facing oppression will be reported on 10 years into the future and if we are on the right path towards equality (Carastathis, 2014).

@intersectional_future


References

Carastathis, A. (2014). The Concept of Intersectionality in Feminist Theory. Philosophy Compass, 9(5), pp.304-314.

 Crenshaw, K. (1989). [online] Chicagounbound.uchicago.edu. Available at: https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=uclf [Accessed 3 May. 2019].

News about digital Marketing applications on Facebook. (2019). How to create a hashtag for Twitter and Instagram campaigns. [online] Available at: https://www.easypromosapp.com/blog/en/2015/01/how-to-create-a-hashtag-for-your-twitter-and-instagram-campaigns/ [Accessed 3 May 2019].

Commenting On My Comments

Continuing on from my last post, during BCM325 I have also commented on my classmates’ project pitches for their digital artefacts and vice versa in order to gain a scope on how well our ideas are communicated to a public of our peers. For each comment I outlined what I thought what was done well, if there was anything that could use clarification or improvement, an offered hopefully something useful they could explore in relation to their topics of interest.

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Matilda’s project was exploring and investigating where the print media industry will be in the future with a specific interest in magazines. In this comment, I thought it might be useful to investigate zines as a sub-genre of magazines especially since they mentioned an interest in independent magazines. I gave links to an article focusing on the resurgence of zine culture, an article about how zines have evolved over time, and a link to event information to the Sydney zine fair.

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Tahlia’s pitch was to researching futuristic technologies and incorporating that research into their blog. I raised my concerns with the clarity of their methodology as I wasn’t sure how they planned to execute their project. They outline a particular interest in A.I. goggles as well as a background in writing. Taking this on bored, I suggested that perhaps they could look into how A.I. is affecting their field. I gave them some links surrounding A.I as content creators and how content can be automated and what it could mean for humans in the industry.

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Taleasha’s digital artefact reflects on the widening gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, offering her own perspective on the issues that circulate our society as an Aboriginal woman. As a non-indigenous person I felt I couldn’t offer much to work with as it is quite a personal project for Taleasha. However, she did mention wanting to incorporate different media into her blog in so I suggested the podcast Wild Black Women as a potential source of input on social issues that Aboriginal women face.

This exercise has been an informative experience as not only did I get to see and express my own input into my peers’ interpretation into the project, but I also received some great input from my peers about where to take my project in reciprocation. In reflection, I have learned that the commenting process is one that needs to be taken with care and consideration as the more thoughtful the feedback is the more helpful it is to learn and develop these digital artefacts. From this exercise, I have gained insightful feedback on how to develop my own project and have hopefully done the same for those projects for which I gave my own feedback.

In future, I will try to make more in-depth appraisals and criticisms as I feel that the ones I gave during this exercise were quite superficial and could’ve concentrated further on the project itself rather than just the delivery of the information. Overall, this has been a valuable experience and I hope the feedback I gave was as insightful and helpful as the comments I received.

The Live Tweeting Experience

Throughout the semester, we have been interacting with the futuristic films shown to us during class via the Twitter hashtag #bcm325. Attempting to create both informative and engaging content while also doing my best to keep track of films in a genre in which I often lose interest in fairly quickly, has been quite the challenge for me. The result was memes and historical/intertextual references:

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x (correction: Greenblatt)

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Tweets like those above were informed and feature some knowledge of prominent figures in computer programming and mixed with pop-culture references in an attempt to get a conversation started – rather unsuccessfully if threads are any evidence to go by. However, they were not the only content I was producing during these live tweeting sessions. I also tweeted some spicy takes concerning the lack of diversity ft. my disinterest in white men on screen (and all the time):

I noticed that I was more engaged and engaging when I expressed my opinions and interpretations of the text. Thus, I was able to continue a conversation through Twitter threads – in this case concerning Bladerunner (1982):

I unfortunately missed the screening of Ghost in the Shell (1995) which I was excited to see as I’m sure it would’ve been a much more enjoyable change from the regular white straight male (or masculine presenting in the case of Bladerunner) protagonist in which we had seen in previous weeks.

Through this task I’ve learned that attempting to live tweet is not an easy feat. Often failing the challenge of twenty interactions or when I do meet the challenge, the majority of the interactions are passive such as a like or a retweet without adding anything to the conversation other than a simple share. I also learned that I need to create more engaging content and be fast about it, because comments become old news faster that you can type.

Although this experience was difficult it was interesting to see my peers’ thoughts relayed out into cyberspace in real time. I will admit that it is a lot easier to articulate my opinions and knowledge clearly to my classmates as I can curate them to be as effective as possible even with the limitations (i.e. time, characters, etc).

In future, I will attempt to engage further with my classmates, bring educated comments into the mix in the hopes of creating a more informative conversation. Although memes and jokes are fun and more entertaining for me, more often than not they fail to contribute to any further discussion other than a few likes. There have also been a couple of times where I have made a couple of errors in my tweets, whether its spelling mistakes or forgotten the hashtag. In future, I will try to be more careful when writing my tweets before posting as there is no editing mechanism once it’s posted other than deleting it all together.

Overall, live tweeting is definitely a skill I need to develop throughout the rest of the semester. Hopefully, this will heighten the engagement with my fellow classmates and encourage better conversations and making better use of the time spent in class.