Report: Some Political Groups "Weaponizing" Ad Data To Target Certain Voters With Troubling Messages

Nov 5, 2018

It’s no secret that political campaigns use data to try to persuade voters. But a report from Ohio’s Miami University says some of this data is being weaponized to target voters who are most likely to be influenced – and they may not even realize it.

The report says data-driven advertising is helping political groups, including secretive dark-money groups, profile consumers to create targeted messaging, which can be based on fears and perceived threats. And these groups can then hide those sometimes inflammatory messages to avoid negative publicity.

Researcher Matthew Crain said this “digital influence machine” could have a huge reach. “Any political issue, from national elections to very localized municipal elections to any kind of ballot measure is ripe for this kind of political influence," Crain said.

Crain said the platforms making money on digital advertising need to be pressured to refuse to work with dark money groups, and to tell consumers when their data is being used this way.