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Friday, May 26, 2017

Targeting Clinton Voters, Project Alamo and Russian Hackers

Last year I posted on Project Alamo:

Project Alamo -- Trump Builds an Explicitly Fascist Movement

My Post reviewed an article in Bloomberg about a Trump Data operation in a Bunker in San Antonio. The Boomberg Argument had Bannon, Jason Kushner & his team, fairly boasting that they were targeting voters for vote suppression:

"trying to shrink it." They admit “We have three major voter suppression operations under way” [bloomberg]

Then this year, Last month, the FBI arrested a hacker named Pyotr Levashov, and the news was that somehow that arrest was connected to Project Alamo.

Levashov and Project Alamo: Spamming Democracy

It turns out they were targeting women voters, youthful voters and black voters with direct marketing ads. They were using facebook ads to send propaganda directly to potential voters who matched profiles they felt would be susceptible to those ads -- with the explicit goal of suppressing the vote.

Dark Ads and Facebook

Sue Halpern writes in a review in the NY Books review, on two books about the election how Project Alamo was using data from Cambridge Analytica in combination with hacked Russian Data to send "targeted ads" directly to voters. Cambridge Analytica assembles data on people's personality traits, fears, interests. These in turn told Project Alamo what buttons to push to motivate people to vote or scare hem away from voting. She gives this example of how the data was used:

"A voter deemed neurotic might be shown a gun-rights commercial featuring burglars breaking into a home, rather than a defense of the Second Amendment; political ads warning of the dangers posed by the Islamic State could be targeted directly at voters prone to anxiety…" [Sue Halpern Review]

With this sort of profiling they could develop buttons to push for specific voters. Not to get them motivated to vote but to convince them not to vote for Hillary Clinton. They used people like Pyotr Levashov to deliver these messages to likely voters.

Invading People's Facebook "Privacy"

They got those facebook profiles using a mix of underhanded tactics and sheer greed:

"Using an Amazon site called Mechanical Turk, the company paid one hundred thousand people in the United States a dollar or two to fill out an online survey. But in order to receive payment, those people were also required to download an app that gave Cambridge Analytica access to the profiles of their unwitting Facebook friends. These profiles included their Facebook “likes” and their own contact lists." [Halpern]

They also got:

"a further 185,000 people were recruited from an unnamed data company, to gain access to another 30 million Facebook profiles." [Halpern]

They also had a huge database of voters acquired by the Republican National Committee. Claimed to be 200 million voters.

Finally they got the data, by buying it from:

"Facebook’s suite of marketing tools. (It should be noted that internal Facebook documents leaked in early May show that Facebook itself has been mining users’ emotional states and sharing that information with advertisers.)" [Halpern]

Targeting Voters

And, apparently, they were able to select, who to target using hacked voter role data from Russian penetrating of USA voter registration personal data in at least 3 states. That is how Trump knew where to campaign in the last days of the election season.

Using this data, they were able to package "dark ads", things like Hillary's out of context comments about the need to get dangerous criminals off the street, into cartoon ads that depicted her as a racist demagogue, and similar, and then send those ads as direct messages to targeted individuals based on their profile.

"One dark post featured a South Park–like animation narrated by Hillary Clinton, using her 1996 remarks about President Bill Clinton’s anti-crime initiative in which she called certain young black men “super predators” who had to be brought “to heel.”" [Halpern]

This went all the while that a cover story was out that Trump was desperately using facebook because he was losing the election. They were doing something new. They weren't hacking our voting machines, they were doing psi-ops attacks on voters.

So while the Russian angle may get all the headlines. The election was also hacked by our own people. The Trump Organization is kind of like a modern SPECTRE (or more like KAOS) that is running its own spy operations, works with whoever will gain it money and power, and is utterly ruthless.

Targeting the FBI

They appear to even have targeted the FBI!

And they Are Still at it

When Obama was elected, he was forced to give up his powerful "Organizing for America" system. Unlike Obama the mix of spammers, propagandists and database driven direct messaging tools that Trump developed during the election, are still at it. The Russian Bots may be paid by Putin, but they are still being directed by activists working for the Republican Trump Machine. If they are also working with Russians this is the largest subversion campaign this country has ever seen. But even without that angle, this is a kind of subversion.

Brad Parscale

Brad Parscale has now been appointed to run trump's 2020 campaign. He is under investigation too. For more on him:

I was listening to Randi Rhodes talk about this on her show today and that inspired me to finish this post. Get a Stinking podcast.
Sue Halpern Review:
Daniel Kreiss: Prototype Politics: Technology-Intensive Campaigning and the Data of Democracy
Hacking the Electorate: How Campaigns Perceive Voters by Eitan D. Hersh

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