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E is for Elections

Whatever Cambridge Analytica did or didn't do, it looks as though psychographic targeting is here to stay. But is it so bad? Could it be a way to re-engage people in politics?

It's not clear that Cambridge Analytica did anything very special with their psychographic targeting. But that's not to say that the data, that Facebook and other big data companies have, can't be effectively used for political campaigning. We speak to people involved in the last UK general election about how the data harvested by Facebook itself - not Cambridge Analytica - was used to deliver targeted messages to particular groups of voters. How Labour sent messages to pro-Brexit Labour supporters to reassure them that Jeremy Corbyn was not a closet remainer, and how the Conservatives sent messages to other voters warning them against Diane Abbott. How the two main parties bid against each other for such Google search terms as "Dementia Tax" in an attempt to reach wavering voters. Targeting voters by their Big Five personality score or through other personal information seems here to stay. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Some of the original Cambridge University researchers argue that, in an era when people are disengaged from politics and often ill-informed, microtargeting voters to connect with their individual concerns could be a useful way to get the population re-engaged with the political process.

Presenter/Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

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14 minutes