Module II

Technologies Used by the Influence Industry

Stylised technologies and data implying digital political campaign technology

Political influence campaigns engage a variety of tools during election cycles. ‘Traditional’ political campaigning methods include printed billboard and poster campaigns, radio and television political ads, in-person rallies or door-to-door canvassing orchestrated by political mediators. These methods were designed and implemented over time with changes happening incrementally. By contrast, technologies used in digital campaigning, sometimes called "campaign-tech" or "political ad-tech", have accelerated in the past decade and are largely unregulated and nontransparent. This chapter outlines a framework for understanding the different ways data-driven tools can be understood (as an asset, as intelligence, or as influence) with demonstrative examples from across the world.

Take aways

  • 1

    Categorise uses of collected personal data within the Political Data Technologies Framework

  • 2

    Learn about a sample of technologies used by the Influence Industry

  • 3

    Explore global examples and tools of the Influence Industry

In this module, you will be presented with The Political Data Technologies Framework developed by our Data and Politics team. The framework demonstrates how data-driven technologies used by the influence industry allow political actors to use personal data in three main categories: as an asset, as intelligence, and as influence. In each section, you will learn about a selection of technologies from each category and see how they have been applied around the world. You will also find reflections and activities to accompany the text.

Examining and understanding the tools and the mechanisms of the influence industry is critical for unpacking the ethics surrounding each tool - focusing too much on Facebook, for example, doesn't allow the conversation to include if the same concerns and regulations should be applied to the use of WhatsApp groups or A/B testing.

By expanding their knowledge of the industry, regulators and policy-makers can ensure their work is not overly limited to well-known scandals or tech platforms that have been in the spotlight. Investigators, researchers and election monitors can observe and scrutinise the full range of tools and tactics applied by political groups. Voters can understand better where and how influence might appear to them, to take more agency over how they form their political opinions.

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