Obama Campaign Dir. Flips, Drops Facebook Election Bombshell


In case you hadn’t heard, there’s yet more Donald Trump-related Facebook drama. This time, a firm called Cambridge Analytica apparently mined data from Facebook without users’ permission during the Trump campaign and apparently wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up when it came to its practices in other countries.

Such practices, according to an investigation by Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, may have included enticing foreign opposition politicians with women in order to create scandals.

A spokesperson for the firm, originally founded by billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer and former Trump ally-turned-enemy Steve Bannon, said the damning footage obtained by Channel 4 was “edited and scripted to grossly misrepresent the nature of those conversations and how the company conducts its business” — an excuse which apparently works really well when the media wants to ignore Project Veritas videos but not so well in this case.

We must stress that nothing Cambridge Analytica allegedly did involving opposition politicians and dirty tricks related to the Trump campaign — they merely paired with Facebook to mine user data for the eventual 2016 presidential winner. This still has liberals crying foul, saying that Facebook favored Trump unfairly. I’m wondering in what universe this doesn’t sound prima facie insane to them, but whatever.

However, if they still manage to inhabit said universe even after logic takes over, perhaps Carol Davidsen can knock them out of it.

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As Independent Journal Review reported, Davidsen, the former director of integration and media analytics for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign organization, “is claiming that Facebook knowingly allowed them to mine massive amounts of Facebook data — more than they would’ve allowed someone else to do — because they were supportive of the campaign.”

And, for an Obama-ite, she managed to come forward with the accusation in a very Trumpian way — a tweetstorm.

On Sunday, as the first waves of the Cambridge Analytica storm were breaking upon liberal media shores, Davidsen claimed that the social media giant let her candidate pretty much mine massive amounts of data, giving the impression they did it because they were on Obama’s side.

Davidsen, however, proposed a more cynical hypothesis: Facebook had teams working with both sides, at least in the 2012 election, in order to hedge their bets.

Does this change your opinion of Facebook?

Davidsen began by pointing to a 2012 Time magazine article — which went virtually unnoticed then — about Obama’s “Project Taargus” Facebook targeting campaign.

The magazine said they were able to target Facebook users “because the more than 1 million Obama backers who signed up for the (Facebook-based app) gave the campaign permission to look at their Facebook friend lists.”

“In an instant, the campaign had a way to see the hidden young voters. Roughly 85 percent of those without a listed phone number could be found in the uploaded friend lists. What’s more, Facebook offered an ideal way to reach them,” Time reported.

“The campaign called this effort targeted sharing. And in those final weeks of the campaign, the team blitzed the supporters who had signed up for the app with requests to share specific online content with specific friends simply by clicking a button. More than 600,000 supporters followed through with more than 5 million contacts, asking their friends to register to vote, give money, vote or look at a video designed to change their mind. A geek squad in Chicago created models from vast data sets to find the best approaches for each potential voter,” the magazine continued.

“We are not just sending you a banner ad,” Dan Wagner, the Obama campaign’s then-head of analytics, who helped oversee the project, said at the time. “We are giving you relevant information from your friends.”

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I’m sure they were. Davidsen started off by giving a practical example of just how that data was used:

“They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side,” Davidsen added, after tweeting about they had been able to “suck out” data Facebook was “surprised” they could access.

As for the social media giant, Davidsen says she’s certain they play both sides of the field.

If you think that Cambridge Analytica represents a smoking gun against Donald J. Trump, you’re probably the kind of person who thought that Andrew McCabe or Stormy Daniels or James Comey or the Russia meeting or any other ridiculously overblown quasi-scandal represented a smoking gun. As in those cases, I can almost guarantee you’re going to be jumping up and down on your “I’m With Her” hat in rage once you yet again throw it underneath your feet as if you were a human cartoon character.

What this has revealed is that politics is an ugly business. It has been so before and it will continue to be so in the future. It was so when Obama got elected, and continued to be so when Donald J. Trump was.

The only new revelation here is that our data, provided to these campaigns fresh from Facebook, was utilized in ways the social media giant’s users weren’t appraised of.

If you’re going to get yourself in a snit over Cambridge Analytica, then start criticizing Obama for doing the exact same thing that Trump apparently did. Or, you can admit to yourself that campaigns can, will and should take advantage of all means that are legal and that the public doesn’t expressly consider to be unethical in order to win.

And don’t just think about Trump and Obama here. If you’re a supporter of Hillary Clinton, you’re on Facebook and you’re concerned about your data, ask yourself this. Hillary spent $1.2 billion on a losing campaign in 2016. Do you think that all went for balloons?

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture