Is Social Media Manipulating You?

As of late, politicians and political activists have been turning to social media to either expand their voting community or to sabotage their opposition.

During the recent French Election, the #MacronGate trend on twitter attempted to reduce Macron’s credibility enough to ensure Le Pen’s victory.

The anti-Macron tweets promoted a series of fake news, and almost 40% of the tweets that were circulating came from bots.

In this instance, the fake twitter accounts proved unsuccessful in securing Le Pen’s victory, however, social media was successfully used to manipulate American voters in 2016.

During last year’s American Presidential Election, automated pro-Trump bots tweeted 7 times more than pro-Clinton accounts, and the-far right politician also pumped a huge $70 million into Facebook during his campaign.

This $70 million enabled Trump’s team to create a detailed identity base of 220 million Americans- named Project Alamo- which was utilised through Facebook to target individuals and ultimately deter them from voting for Hillary.

In one case, Trump’s team created a South-Park style animation featuring a 1996 soundbite of Hillary Clinton inferring that African Americans are “super predators”. This clip was targeted at African American voters on Facebook- sent non-publically, and only to specific people- in order to deter them from voting for Clinton.

The fact that I am not Donald Trump’s biggest fan, does not change the fact that his use of social media to manipulate the public is undeniably invasive.

But how can this meddling be stopped, if social media platforms are even doing it themselves?

It was recently revealed that Facebook has been calculating how “insecure”, “stressed”, or “nervous” its users are, to sell this information on to marketing companies and help them to assess which vulnerable people to target with their ad’s.

Unfortunately, the use of social media in targeting individuals and minority groups is an increasingly popular game, and one that social media platforms don’t seem too keen to change: but then why would they, if sums in the region of $70 million are up for grabs?