Artificial intelligence is transforming social media. Can American democracy survive?

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, left, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey arrive to a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Donald Trump’s allies on social media paved his way to the White House, and today the commander in chief’s Twitter tirades rally his base and set the country’s policy agenda and constitutional debates. His fans admire the alleged authenticity of the president’s direct, seemingly unfiltered communications.

But are the social media masses being duped? Mounting evidence suggests that the president authors only some of his tweets. And those famous campaign phrases and hashtags of “drain the swamp” and “deep state”? According to Chris Wylie, a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, Stephen K. Bannon directed the testing of these messages in 2014, long before Trump signed up for the presidential race.

Yes, the Kremlin’s manipulation of social media is a threat to U.S. democracy. But some of the most damaging efforts I’ve seen lately are American, not Russian, and they’re far more technically capable than those of the Internet Research Agency that was indicted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in February. It’s time we started paying attention to the political campaigns and public-relations firms exploiting social media to drive audiences apart online and constituencies against each other at the ballot box. Western opportunists will adopt the Kremlin’s information warfare art but will apply a more devastating power — that of artificial intelligence — to sway audiences through social media assaults.

Cambridge Analytica’s much-touted use of social media-generated psychographic voter targeting may have been more aspirational than factual, a touch of digital snake oil in the pursuit of clients. But Bannon and Cambridge Analytica were naturally and logically pursuing the next advance in political influence — campaigning that is more science than art, manufactured populism guided by hidden influencers who understand microscopic audience preferences and the psychological vulnerabilities of voters.

Cambridge Analytica’s harvesting of Facebook accounts and pairing with voter profiles merely represents a small first step for social manipulation. Advanced public relations firms, propagandists and campaigns, now and in the future, seek a full digital pattern-of-life on each potential voter. Every like, retweet, share and post on all social media platforms will be merged and matched with purchase histories, credit reports, professional résumés and subscriptions. Fitness tracker data combined with social media activity provides a remarkable window into just when a targeted voter might be most vulnerable to influence, ripe for just the right message or a particular kind of messenger.

Future campaigns will pick not just the issues and slogans a candidate should support, but also the candidate who should champion those issues. Dating apps, the aggregate output of thousands of swipes, provide the perfect physical composite, educational pedigree and professional background for recruiting attractive candidates appealing to specific voting segments across a range of demographics and regions. Even further in the future, temporal trends for different voter blocks might be compared to ancestry, genetic and medical data to understand generational and regional shifts in political leanings, thereby illuminating methods for slicing and dicing audiences in favor of or against a specified agenda.

Rapidly compiling social media in pursuit of big-data reconnaissance on voters requires artificial intelligence (AI). Machine learning, an AI application where machines learn without explicit programming, will rapidly pore over data troves and illuminate key insights with limited human intervention. Once audiences have been scoped, they’ll need to be prodded, and new innovations will provide scary capabilities for social media audience manipulation.

False information, printed text, spread via news stories true information in the run-up to the election. But fake video and audio can offer strikingly real impressions of world leaders appearing to be in places they’ve never been, saying things they never said. This forgery capability will offer nefarious social media manipulators the ability to inject powerfully engaging smear campaigns into political discussions — or an opportunity to cast doubt about the authenticity of information by alleging that content might be doctored.

Russian interference in Western elections in 2016 heightened concerns about computational propaganda. False social media accounts looking like and communicating like the target audience, known as social bots, repeated programmed messages and amplified political content altering users’ perceptions of reality and influencing debate. 2016’s social bots will appear crude in comparison to the AI-powered chatbots of 2018 and beyond. Newer chatbots, computer programs simulating real conversation, increasingly pass the Turing test, in which a machine exhibits behavior indistinguishable from a human. Bots might seamlessly chat with humans and each other, creating engaging bot communities.

Brad Parscale’s promotion from Trump’s digital director in 2016 to campaign manager for the president in 2020 shows just how important social media campaigns will be in U.S. elections. Campaigns will employ social media not to broaden debate through open discussion, but to harden the views of their social media adherents through deliberate information partitioning. They’ll recruit supporters on mainstream social media platforms and push them to apps they design, control and leverage to harvest voter data.

Over the long term, AI-driven campaigns may well be the undoing of the social media platforms they haunt and the democracies they seek to dominate.

This content was originally published here.

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Trump’s 2020 attack strategy: Smear Biden over mental fitness By Eric Bradner, Ryan Nobles and Dan Merica, CNN President Donald Trump and his allies have zeroed-in on an attack against Joe Biden, going after the presumptive Democratic governmental nominee’s mental physical fitness in a coordinated effort using smears and innuendo to paint him as ill-quipped to be President of the United States. Trump for months has questioned the mental skill of the opponent he calls “Drowsy Joe.” Trump last week described Biden as “a sleepy person in a basement of a home,” and he has actually repeatedly recommended that Biden did not personally write declarations issued by his project criticizing Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. His project and the Republican National Committee have progressively focused its attacks on Biden’s tendency for on-camera verbal stumbles in recent weeks, as it looks for to define Biden after he emerged triumphant from the Democratic primary. One example came previously this month, when Trump’s campaign launched an ad comparing Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, which closed with the line: “At least Bernie remembers his positions.” The attacks are an early demonstration of how Trump will utilize the full Republican politician Celebration apparatus to run a scorched-earth campaign based upon personal insults and unwarranted insinuations– a heightened variation of his playbook from 2016, when Trump and his allies, without proof, called into question Hillary Clinton’s health. They have actually become a daily occurrence from Trump’s campaign, assistants and Republican allies throughout every medium possible– on social media, in campaign e-mail blasts and videos and on Trump-aligned media companies like Fox News. Biden’s advisers and Democratic allies mention that Trump is guilty of many of the same verbal tics he is attacking Biden over, and often lies and embraces conspiracy theories. As one Biden ally put it: “Has Trump taken his own guidance and downed a gallon of bleach yet?” The attacks weaponize Biden’s propensity to stumble over words, utilize the wrong word or interrupt himself in the middle of long answers by stating, “anyhow,” and altering course. To fans of a former vice president who in December 2018 called himself a “gaffe maker,” those long-time spoken tics have always belonged to Biden’s public persona. They are made more forgivable to his advocates by Biden’s openness about conquering a stutter. Aside from periodic jousts amongst assistants on Twitter, Biden’s project has mostly neglected the Trump project’s attacks. Biden-world’s view is that the political and media landscape has actually shifted because 2016, when every Trump attack on a rival was treated as novel and took command of the project narrative on social media and cable news. His consultants pointed to Trump’s stopped working efforts to guide the political discussion in the 2017 Virginia governor’s race, when he and his GOP allies cautioned of the MS-13 gang, in addition to the 2018 midterms, when Trump’s message concentrated on caravans of refugees approaching the US-Mexico border. ” The misapprehension that whatever Trump wishes to speak about is inherently efficient and that he gets to act as the media’s at-large task editor has actually been closed,” a Biden consultant said. As Biden has adapted to marketing in the age of coronavirus– knocked off the campaign path and rather transmitting occasions and interviews from a transformed rec room in his basement in Delaware– Trump’s project is seizing on every on-camera miscue, with conservative Trump allies such as Fox News host Sean Hannity then magnifying them. ” His sharpness, or absence thereof is on screen every day, every time he talks,” Trump project spokesperson Tim Murtaugh informed CNN in response to concerns about the technique. “His failure to keep a train of thought going is obvious.” Biden frequently looks down at his notes, which Trump’s allies have actually mischaracterized as Biden dropping off to sleep. Trump’s boy Eric Trump tweeted a seven-second video from Biden’s online broadcast with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, along with the hashtag “#SleepyJoe.”. Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign supervisor, said Trump “always projects his biggest weakens on his challenger in an attempt to deflect criticism from himself.”. ” What is very clear is the White Home thinks his presidency will be evaluated on how properly he is managing coronavirus, so it makes ideal sense that he is now attempting to accuse his challenger of incompetence, which is ridiculous.”. The attacks resemble how Trump’s campaign pursued Clinton in 2016, Mook noted. Trump and his campaign frequently cast the former secretary of state as sick or unhealthy, a technique that was further elevated after Clinton stumbled after a September 11 occasion in New York due to concealed pneumonia. ” I simply see a pattern regularly from 2016 all the way through now, which is, he attempts to predict his most significant issues onto his opponents so he gives the media a false equivalence to attempt to muddy the water,” Mook stated. “Part of the factor he was so obsessed with calling Hillary Clinton dishonest is because he is probably the most deceitful individual to win the White Home.”. Biden advisers argue that Trump’s efforts to caricature Biden won’t overcome the same qualities that insulated him in the Democratic primary: After 5 decades in the public eye and eight years as President Barack Obama’s No. 2, voters feel like they know him. Biden frequently expresses distaste for attacks on his rivals’ character. His aides say that by questioning Biden’s mental capability, the President is guiding the project toward concerns of character and fitness. ” This is asinine to tee up– since it’s 10,000 times even worse for him,” a Biden adviser stated. As an example of how easily Trump could be parodied, Biden’s assistants indicated a video from The Daily Show in which Fox News hosts and analysts’ comments about Biden’s mental skill were interspersed with videos of Trump’s own verbal flubs. Biden spokesman Andrew Bates tweeted The Daily Program’s video, which has been seen 3.6 million times on Twitter, on March 25, in action to Trump spokesperson Matt Wolking tweeting: “When is the last time Joe Biden was lucid?”. ” Triggering voters to assess prospects’ mental states is a devastating proposal for Donald Trump, so we’re never going to prevent him from going there,” Bates said. – CNNPolitics.

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