This post about micro-targeting is worth a look, whether or not you accept that it was a really decisive factor in Trump’s electoral success last November or not. We’re hearing similar, possibly overhyped claims about Brexit.
Societies with a successful representative democracy have many important features in common. An ability to micro-target with different (often conflicting) messages aimed at different people without them realising how inconsistent these communications are may not be one of those features.
It’s not as new a concern as it may seem. In lots of ways, it’s just an extension of the Filter Bubble problem which political scientists seem worried rather than catatonic about. It can be coupled with other problems such as the continuing decline in trust experienced by the news media, and by experts (and, therefore, more sharply differing varieties of The Truth) or the popular relativitism that treats the inventions if a bedroom blogger with as much respect as conscientious reporter.
I’m sure that this concern will be ridiculed as another moral panic in some quarters and I hope I’m not overstating the problem here, but democracy may need a reasonably trusted, and wholly visible mass media which is able to present a version of reality that isn’t totally contested.
At the moment, we can’t be certain that it can survive without it – and micro-targeting could develop into the thing that tips representative democracy over the edge.