My column in The Week: Today’s digital tools divide us far more than they unite us.
New York Times: “The criticism after the 2012 presidential election was swift and harsh: Democrats were light-years ahead of Republicans when it came to digital strategy and tactics, and Republicans had serious work to do on the technology front if they ever hoped to win back the White House.”
“Now, with the 2016 campaign already underway, Republicans are eager to show they have learned the lessons of past cycles and are placing a premium on hiring top digital talent to build the tools they deem necessary to compete. But their immediate problem is slightly more low-tech: the basics of supply and demand.”
Boston Globe: “Digital in 2016 will be faster, more intense, and more mobile than it was in 2008, and that has repercussions for how this season’s crop of presidential candidates will behave and how their campaigns will unfold in New Hampshire and beyond. Candidates will still shake hands, give speeches, and pose for photos, but successful campaigns will also need to amass a suite of high-tech tools.”
“What’s changed in recent years… is the ease of producing, sharing, and watching online video. Instead of just reading about a candidate’s speech, voters can see it for themselves anywhere they can connect to a Wi-Fi or 3G signal. And, thanks to live streaming apps like Meerkat and Periscope, video is likely to be even an even bigger part of 2016.”
“The availability of video has shifted the tenor of campaign events in early states like New Hampshire… Candidates used to be able to slip into a remote town hall to quietly test a few sections of a stump speech. Now, anything they say has the potential to go viral online.”
Brad Phillips reports on a new opposition research firm which analyzes political staffers’ online media presence for indications of how their postings might embarrass their bosses.
“Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long for somebody to advertise the service specifically for political staffs, because staffers’ social media accounts have caused trouble in the past for countless politicians.”
A new Pew Research study finds “64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011. Smartphone ownership is especially high among younger Americans, as well as those with relatively high income and education levels.”
Politico: “The new mobile reality is changing the state of news and advertising, and it will also change the dynamic of American politics — especially during the 2016 campaign season, journalists and political operatives said.”
Gawker found a login page for Hillary Clinton’s private email server which “uses an SSL VPN—a protocol that allows your web browser to create an encrypted connection to a local network from any internet connection—to users to access their email. That sounds secure, and under the right circumstances, for regular users, it can be. But there are two huge problems with using it for the Secretary of State’s communications with her staff and others.”
“First: Anyone in the world with that URL can attempt to log in. It’s unclear what exactly lies on the other side of this login page, but the fact that you could log into anything tied to the Secretary of State’s email is, simply, bad. If the page above is directly connected to Clinton’s email server, a login there could be disastrous… What’s more troubling is the fact that, at least as of yesterday, the server at sslvpn has an invalid SSL certificate. Digital certificates are used to ‘sign’ the encryption keys that servers and browsers use to establish encrypted communications.”
Politico: “In the 2014 campaign, many voters expressed outrage over the National Security Agency’s collection of telephone metadata, and others complained about retailers using tricks to get their emails and other personal information. But by far the most sweeping violator of privacy wasn’t the government or big-box stores: It was the very political leaders to whom the voters were appealing.”
“Data mining has become so sophisticated that campaigns can now target voters by mashing together public records with much more personal information from Facebook feeds and consumer reports that offer such nuggets as who has sterling credit ratings but hasn’t purchased a car in seven or more years.”
National Journal: “In the last four years, ForAmerica has quietly amassed what it likes to call a ‘digital army’ on Facebook — a force that that now numbers more than 7 million. The group’s spectacular growth can be explained in part by the paid acquisition of its members through targeted advertising. But thanks to a daily stream of savvy and snackable red-meat messaging, these mercenaries have become loyal conservative digital soldiers whose engagement is attracting new recruits. These days, a routine post on ForAmerica’s page reaches more than 2 million people, achieves more than 100,000 “likes,” and has tens of thousands of people repost and comment.”
Their new target: “policing the 2016 Republican presidential race.”
President Obama’s reelection campaign “pioneered a pathway for political campaigns to reach voters through Facebook when it released an app that helped supporters target their friends with Obama-related material,” Yahoo News reports.
“But as the 2016 presidential campaign approaches, Facebook is rolling out a change that will prevent future campaigns from doing this, closing the door on one of the most sophisticated social targeting efforts ever undertaken.”
Said Obama digital chief Teddy Goff: “It’s a fairly significant shift. The thing we did that will be most affected — by which I mean rendered impossible — by the changes they’re making is the targeted sharing tool.”
President Obama “put the full weight of his administration behind an open and free Internet, calling for a strict policy of so-called net neutrality and formally opposing deals in which content providers like Netflix would pay huge sums to broadband companies for faster access to their customers,” the New York Times reports.
“The president’s proposal is consistent with his longstanding support for rules that seek to prevent cable and telephone companies from providing special access to some content providers. But the statement posted online Monday, as Mr. Obama traveled to Asia, is the most direct effort by the president to influence the debate about the Internet’s future.”
Tech Crunch notes Obama laid out “in no uncertain terms that he believes no cable company or access provider should be able to put limits on access to the Internet.”
The New York Times reports on digital efforts to “track and chase” voters, “an integral part of the modern ground game. Now campaigns know where you eat, what you watch, what you read, where you work, if you commute — and are tracking it in real time, delivering specifically tailored messages to individual voters and hounding them until the ballots are cast. And in an election cycle with so many close races, the outcome, with control of Congress at stake, may turn on which party does the better job of, in effect, engineering the vote.”
“The use of this technology is not without risk. Its relentless and intrusive nature can quickly turn off voters, even though campaigns and committees on both sides work to address privacy concerns by making sure that at the individual level, each targeted voter remains anonymous.”
New Yorker: “Foley’s murder evokes sad and painful memories of the videotaped murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. That execution–of an innocent man, chosen for victimhood merely because of his nationality and, perhaps, his religion (Pearl was Jewish)–set the pattern, and a new benchmark for terrorists. Since then, hundreds and perhaps thousands of people, many of them noncombatants, have been similarly murdered, their last moments videotaped, at the hands of extremists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. There is no longer any doubt that the Internet, with its power of contagion and usefulness for recruiting, has become a preferred, particular tool of terrorists.”
BuyPartisan is an iPhone app that allows you to quickly find out if the things you buy are made by companies that match your personal political beliefs.
Washington Post: “BuyPartisan would take the nation’s ideological sorting to a new level. It’s not just that Americans refuse to marry, socialize and live near people who disagree with their partisan affiliation. If the app succeeds, it would be a sign that Democrats and Republicans aren’t even willing to do business with one another any longer.”
National Journal: “Beginning this week… Data Trust–a privately operated entity backed by the Republican National Committee that maintains a master list of voter information nationwide–is rolling out a marquee technical upgrade that will allow Republican campaigns and their allies to share voter information with one another in real time. The new feature will let campaigns and approved outside groups not only access voter information anytime (with their own data software) but update it instantly, so others viewing the voter lists can see the information immediately.”