The matters of the world are boiling down to matters of perceptions and thoughts and the extent to which these can be influenced and controlled just to win people on a particular side of an argument. It is in this context the recent breach of large amounts of personal Facebook Data of over 230 million Americans which was made possible through the master plan of the consultant firm Cambridge Analytica and the recent developments of Facebook trying to regain its lost popularity by introducing it's new ‘’dating feature” can be understood.
A brief history of Cambridge Analytica
The consultant firm Cambridge Analytica was hired by the then Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 in order to aid and advise the campaign members to ensure a sweeping win for Donald Trump. While Cambridge Analytica and the research it conducted was not the only factor responsible for determining the win for the white house it most certainly was a significant one for Trump’s success and his consequent victory.
Cambridge Analytica’s Master Plan
So which psychological process did the Firm use to influence Voters? The process is called Psycho graphic Marketing, a blend of Psychology and marketing which was used to tap into the behavioural patterns of over 230 million Americans by having access to their personal data through Facebook. Psycho graphic Marketing involves manipulation of People’s Psyche with individual targeting to control people’s thoughts and feelings towards the election process.
It all began when a third party researcher named Alexander Cohen deployed a survey which seemed fairly simple. It required people to take up a personality test online. The test consisted of 100 different personality traits with which people had to either agree or disagree. At first sight, this seemed harmless as many people online resort to such tests occasionally in order discover more about themselves. This “simple” test turned out to make Donald Trump the next president.
The survey deployed by Cohen could only be taken up when people signed in through their Facebook accounts. This meant that Cohen and ultimately Cambridge Analytica had access to personal Facebook data of various Americans including their likes, dislikes, Friends, Family and most importantly their political and public beliefs. The test which started out with 300, 0 00 Americans reached out to over 230 million. The results of the test were then converted into specific personality profiles combined with voting records of the test takers.These people were then introduced to sensational political messages as per the kind of personality they had which were mostly against Hilary Clinton and favouring Trump. Many advertisements displayed on social media also justified Trump’s view of the United States, for instance, his support for the second amendment which protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. These advertisements would pop onto the Facebook pages of people who were classified into different personality types through the test such as the Adventurer personality type who is open to new experiences and a little anxious about the uncertainty in the county given racial tensions who wouldn’t mind possessing a gun or the protector personality type who thinks that gun control would positively affect his ability to protect the people he is concerned about.
So what exactly is wrong with exposing people to such advertisements when it is known that they will favour one of the candidates given their belief system? The process firstly puts Facebook under investigation because of its Shady dealings with firms like Cambridge Analytica. The reason why people sign up for Facebook is that they are reassured of Privacy and can monitor what they wish to showcase to the world. This controversy has got Facebook into the limelight for not only the breach of Data but has also projected it as a company which has let go of its Ethical standards. Secondly, the information used by Cambridge Analytica did not necessarily have a Factual basis. The marketing and advertisements were specifically catered to influence voting patterns of the more gullible older generation Americans who think they were on their way to “Make America Great Again’ or the less educated. The focus here should really be about the effect that orchestrated and fake news can have on our society. It can tarnish all efforts to foster a society which is consciously aware and responsible for its own actions.
And dating is here to save …….
The recent headlines shout out Facebook’s efforts to save itself from the data Fiasco. In order to distract consumers, the social media platform has decided to introduce its new dating feature on the core app. Facebook continues to exploit the fear of people remaining single and their psychological need for love and belongingness in a world filled with the fear of missing out (FOMO), in this case, the fear of missing out on ‘’meaningful relationship” that Facebook aims to create for people. That is pretty ironic given the fact that excessive use of social media platforms like Facebook has made our relationships more and more formal and impersonal. These are clear efforts of Facebook to bridge that gap of meaningful relationships that it itself created.