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A traffic-light system to “influence” young unmarried males in Libya (source: Nudgestock 2 Festival, at 13:32).

The (dis)information mercenaries now controlling Trump’s databases

Paul-Olivier Dehaye
Jan 3, 2017 · 10 min read
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Target Audience Analysis illustration for The Three Swords Magazine (credit: NATO)

Influence: capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.

Manipulate: control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly or unscrupulously.

Methodology

The methodology is outlined in many manuscripts, for instance this report to the U.S. Army War College. If you want to influence a whole population (to get yourself elected, to destabilise a country, to counter an insurgency, to control the spread of a virus, to improve health practices), you should:

  1. Establish under what circumstances the audiences’ behaviours could be changed and which triggers were the strongest (this is the Target Audience Analysis phase, which could involve polling, field research, etc);
  2. Define your Intervention Strategy, which could be, depending on your local context: a social media campaign, giving money to select audiences, spreading disinformation to gullible voters, spreading disinformation to destabilise longstanding alliances, foster horizontal discussion within audiences, killing someone, commit a terrorist act, etc [2].
  3. Thoroughly define and collect metrics to make sure your actions actually get you closer to desired objectives (in particular, there are different tiers of Target Audience Analysis that are possible, depending on how granularly you are able to collect data on the effectiveness of the campaign).

Cultural diplomacy directed at Chinese people is likely to fail, and so too is cultural diplomacy directed at Chinese males aged 18–32, because that is an externally-imposed demographic category, not a self-identifying, cohesive group. Far more useful is cultural diplomacy aimed at Netizens, because they have a shared culture.

— Behavioural Dynamics Institute evidence submission to the House of Lords.

In Western democracies, we can go much more granular than “Chinese Netizens”: the digital research firm comScore, for instance, tracks Breitbart traffic but also the Breitbart audience itself. It is then happy to resell that personal data to Cambridge Analytica in order to customize TV ad buys for the Trump campaign (screenshots of the tools available upon request). In other words, where people read and watch affects on which TV shows Trump ads were shown.

PSYOPS specialist, IOTA-Global Director of Operations and SCL Defence Director talking at “Nudgestock 2” conference about his work in Libya.

SCL dashboards

So far, I don’t think anything is very controversial or surprising. But then, I found some dashboards that gave me pause. It’s one thing to imagine all the men and women working to conduct this whole process. It’s another to just see dashboards with a lot of this methodology formalised, knowing they represent the complexity of millions of individual lives obscured behind a few gimmicky buttons.

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Dashboard D. The five blacked out areas are, in order, “Libya”, “P[rime ]M[inister] Zeidan”, “G[eneral ]N[ational ]C[ongress]”, “Gaddafi” and “Qatar” (through comparison with Dashboard A, see text). Source: “Using target Audience Analysis to aid strategic level decisionmaking

These conclusions are derived from a wealth of research conducted and synthesized by the Behavioural Dynamics Institute, including the study of primary research data gathered by our commercial partners SCL in consultancy projects across more than 50 countries.

In other words, these projects in Afghanistan, Libya, etc help refine the research, the methodology and the tools, which are then theorised at the BDI and resold through SCL.

That’s an intense schedule for a course, really.

Conclusion

On one side, Putin is said to apply the old Russian playbook in propagating false stories (or even contenting himself in people believing he could).

Update 1

Trump’s digital campaign director, Brad Parscale, was just announced as a speaker at the Summit on Strategic Communications, held in Arlington Virginia, and sponsored by Bell Helicopter, a shipbuilding company, and Northrop Grumman.

References

[1] Countries where either SCL Elections or SCL Defence have offered services, according to non-PR sources:

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See source for explanations.
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Dashboard G. Source: Three Swords Magazine (NATO)
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Dashboard H. Source: Three Swords Magazine (NATO)

PersonalData.IO

Big Data and Society, Privacy, Data Protection Rights…

Paul-Olivier Dehaye

Written by

Mathematician. Co-founder of PersonalData.IO. Free society by bridging ideas. #bigdata and its #ethics, citizen science

PersonalData.IO

Big Data and Society, Privacy, Data Protection Rights http://www.PersonalData.IO

Paul-Olivier Dehaye

Written by

Mathematician. Co-founder of PersonalData.IO. Free society by bridging ideas. #bigdata and its #ethics, citizen science

PersonalData.IO

Big Data and Society, Privacy, Data Protection Rights http://www.PersonalData.IO