How can one innocent click change your voting decision?

Voting Decision, Cambridge Analytica
© Frédéric Legrand

For those observing voting decisions, a combination of psychology and technology changes political rivalry from an agenda to an influence basis

2020 is full of high profile elections. The US presidential elections will determine the course of the most powerful democracy in the world, while the elections in Belarus set fire to the last remaining dictatorship in Europe. In the meantime, Venezuela could have a parliamentary power shift and New Zealand could decide to legalize marijuana.

The British have since cast their votes Brexit 2016 and Cambridge Analytica They were known to have disrupted the process. All upcoming elections will depend on the technology and data that can assist them in digging.

How our thoughts and beliefs become accessible to all interested parties

Five out of ten users don't worry about cybersecurity thinking it is of no interest to hackers. But it's not just hackers – policymakers are also interested in citizens' digital behavior.

The first step towards the desired election result is to gather the persistent beliefs and values ​​of undecided voters. This is done by analyzing which messages on social media attracted or triggered attention, which videos they were engaged in and which articles they read.

The profiles created are then used to personalize the political advertising messages. Instead of promoting the candidate's values ​​and beliefs, the message mimics those of the voter. The high frequency of repetitive messages that do not contradict the existing value system creates what is known as “confirmation bias”. The person stops thinking critically about the topic and refuses to accept conflicting facts because they clash with their beliefs.

Affirmation bias affects all aspects of life and is common in marketing and politics. An analysis conducted in 2016 shows how confirmation biases affect our daily operations: 376 million Facebook users have interacted with over 900 news outlets People tend to seek information that is consistent with their views.

The combination of psychology and technology shifts political rivalry from an agenda to one based on influence. Whoever learns and addresses voters' beliefs first is more likely to win.

“The lockdown has made people spend significantly more time online, which has resulted in more digital footprints. At the same time, the number of controversial topics is increasing. The year 2020 is full of social turmoil, and if you look into it, you can see where a voter stands on certain questions, ”says Daniel Markuson, expert on digital privacy at NordVPN.

How psychology is used to improve technology

"It's all about the protocols," says the digital data protection expert. "When a user watches a particular YouTube video, clicks an ad, likes the comment, or just doesn't finish an article, their actions are logged." Clickstream data is critical to profiling for voter targeting. "

Some of the voting decisions depend on misinformation. According to NewsGuard, there are at least such in the US alone 132 Misinformation Websites posing as legitimate news sources for the pandemic. These types of articles "play directly into our existing prejudices," says Dr. Thomas Davenport, Professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College.

“Citizens feel vigilant and try to protect their digital privacy. It's no surprise that interest in VPN services is growing, especially in countries where people feel oppressed. For example, the demand for VPN services in Hong Kong increased 120-fold within a few hours after the Chinese government announced that it was drafting a new security law to regulate criticism and protests. The citizens themselves must become the stronghold of democracy and protect their right to independent elections, ”explains Daniel Markuson.

The threats beyond internal affairs

People understand that the media they consume are biased. in the 2017 Gallup poll found that 45% of Americans believe the news is "a lot" of political bias. Europeans are most against politically biased news. For example, 89% of the people in Spain and 88% in Greece do not tolerate the political involvement of the media. This compares to 78% in the US.

Democracy's watchdogs have also been made aware of external attempts to influence decision-making. The EU alone has found that the extent of disinformation is another way of influencing elections. Reported attempts to spread disinformation have since doubled January 2019.

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