3.5 million black Americans were categorised as “deterrence” by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign team, according to UK media.
Channel 4 News says it has obtained access to a “vast cache of data” used by Donald Trump’s campaign team to help profile 200 million American voters in his successful 2016 campaign. According to the UK outlet, 3.5 million black Americans were categorised as “deterrence” – the voters they wanted to stay home on election day.
“Vast in scale, it contains details on almost 200 million Americans, among more than 5,000 files, which together amass almost 5 terabytes of data – making it one of the biggest leaks in history,” Channel 4 ‘s New Investigation Team reported today.
“It reveals not only the huge amounts of data held on every individual voter, but how that data was used and manipulated by models and algorithms.”
According to the report, millions of Americans were categorised by an algorithm to be served targeted advertising on Facebook and other platforms. Black Americans were disproportionately marked “deterrence” – more than double in some states.
“Overall, people of colour labelled as Black, Hispanic, Asian and ‘Other’ groups made up 54 per cent of the ‘Deterrence’ category. In contrast, other categories of voters the campaign wished to attract were overwhelmingly white.”
People of colour have historically been targeted with voter suppression tactics in the US, which does not have mandatory voting. The Trump campaign reportedly spent £44 million on Facebook ads alone during 2016, posting millions of targeted messages into US users’ feeds.
Black voter turnout fell for the first time in 20 years at the 2016 election while white voter turnout increased for the first time in 12 years, according to Pew research.
Trump’s digital campaign team included people from the Cambridge Analytica, the controversial data firm involved in covertly harvesting data from millions of Facebook users. Australia’s privacy regulator is currently pursuing Facebook in federal court for alleged interference with Australian users’ privacy during the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The social media giant has already paid billions in penalties to US regulators.
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Channel 4’s revelations will put more scrutiny on Facebook to be more transparent on its targeting and political advertising services which have been criticised for damaging elections in several countries, including Australia.