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Report – The Technologies Behind Precision Propaganda on the Internet

New America’s Public Interest Technology team – Digital Deceit – The Technologies Behind Precision Propaganda on the Internet: “Over the past year, there has been rising pressure on Facebook, Google and Twitter to account for how bad actors are exploiting their platforms. The catalyst of this so-called “tech-lash” was the revelation last summer that agents of the Russian government engaged in disinformation operations using these services to influence the 2016 presidential campaigns. The investigation into the Russian operation pulled back the curtain on a modern Internet marketplace that enables widespread disinformation over online channels. Questionable digital advertisements, social media bots, and viral Internet memes carrying toxic messages have featured heavily in the news. But we have only begun to scratch the surface of a much larger ecosystem of digital advertising and marketing technologies. To truly address the specter of future nefarious interventions in the American political process, we need to broaden the lens and assess all of the tools available to online commercial advertisers. Disinformation operators in the future will replicate all of these techniques, using  the full suite of platforms and technologies. These tools grow more powerful all the time as new advances in algorithmic technologies and artificial intelligence are integrated into the marketplace for digital marketing and advertising. The central problem of disinformation corrupting American political culture is not Russian spies or a particular social media platform. The central problem is that the entire industry is built to leverage sophisticated technology to aggregate user attention and sell advertising. There is an alignment of interests between advertisers and the platforms. And disinformation operators are typically indistinguishable from any other advertiser. Any viable policy solutions must start here. To inform and support this important public debate, this paper analyzes the technologies of digital advertising and marketing in order to deepen our understanding of precision propaganda.”

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