From data-driven politics to weaponised social media

This illuminating Vanity Fair article captures an important transition in digital politics, as the data science driven Clinton campaign was eclipsed by the social media savvy Trump campaign:

While Democrats spent the last decade running A/B tests and refining their voter models, Republicans stumbled into learning how to weaponize content on social media by going after the heart and gut. “You have right-wing organizations like Turning Point USA pouring millions and millions of dollars into churning out videos, GIFs, and memes that are then fed into massive distribution networks,” said Lindsay Holst, who served as director of digital strategy in the Obama White House. “For these groups the digital content is the point, not the window dressing. We’re lacking the necessary volume of emotional messaging that appeals to people as human beings, not as data points. 

It’s interesting to see the UK in these terms. Part of Labour’s 2017 success was down to their organic reach coupled with strategic weaponisation, particularly on the part of Momentum. The conservative strategy adapted hugely for 2019 and I’ve still yet to see a thorough analysis of the playbook they adopted for the election. As Richard Seymour put it, the Tories spent six weeks gaslighting the country and it’s important we understand the techniques they were using to do this.