This is a long investigative article but it sheds some light on what has been happening with the use of data based mass manipulation in relation to the Brexit vote and in the US. The names of Robert Mercer, Stephen Bannon, Nigel Farage and Donald Trump are intertwined.
Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media
With links to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage, the rightwing US computer scientist is at the heart of a multimillion-dollar propaganda network
Just over a week ago, Donald Trump gathered members of the world’s press before him and told them they were liars. “The press, honestly, is out of control,” he said. “The public doesn’t believe you any more.” CNN was described as “very fake news… story after story is bad”. The BBC was “another beauty”.
That night I did two things. First, I typed “Trump” in the search box of Twitter. My feed was reporting that he was crazy, a lunatic, a raving madman. But that wasn’t how it was playing out elsewhere. The results produced a stream of “Go Donald!!!!”, and “You show ’em!!!” There were star-spangled banner emojis and thumbs-up emojis and clips of Trump laying into the “FAKE news MSM liars!”
Trump had spoken, and his audience had heard him. Then I did what I’ve been doing for two and a half months now. I Googled “mainstream media is…” And there it was. Google’s autocomplete suggestions: “mainstream media is… dead, dying, fake news, fake, finished”. Is it dead, I wonder? Has FAKE news won? Are we now the FAKE news? Is the mainstream media – we, us, I – dying?
I did the same search and get the same result:
That is effective international manipulation of Google search rankings.
I click Google’s first suggested link. It leads to a website called CNSnews.com and an article: “The Mainstream media are dead.” They’re dead, I learn, because they – we, I – “cannot be trusted”.
My first two hits are James O’Keefe (part of the same right wing media network) related, the third is CNS News.
How had it, an obscure site I’d never heard of, dominated Google’s search algorithm on the topic? In the “About us” tab, I learn CNSnews is owned by the Media Research Center, which a click later I learn is “America’s media watchdog”, an organisation that claims an “unwavering commitment to neutralising leftwing bias in the news, media and popular culture”.
Another couple of clicks and I discover that it receives a large bulk of its funding – more than $10m in the past decade – from a single source, the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. If you follow US politics you may recognise the name. Robert Mercer is the money behind Donald Trump. But then, I will come to learn, Robert Mercer is the money behind an awful lot of things. He was Trump’s single biggest donor. Mercer started backing Ted Cruz, but when he fell out of the presidential race he threw his money – $13.5m of it – behind the Trump campaign.
The article goes on to detail how Mercer has been involved in funding and assisting right wing interests to gather and use online data, and how they are manipulating Google and Facebook to promote their interests.
Nigel Farage was assisted free of charge in the Brexit campaign.
And they swung from initially supporting Ted Cruz’s campaign to get in behind Donald Trump.And the rest of that campaign is history.
But since then it’s easy to recognise what Trump says on Twitter and in media conferences as carefully littered with key words to provoke emotional responses.
A large number of Americans have been attracted to this, and more than a few Kiwis as well.
Even if you support Trump, and want to continue to support him, you should understand how this is being done – because someone else who you disagree with, perhaps strongly, may place the same game.
It’s good to see that his sort of investigative journalism is not dead, despite how some are trying to brainwash the world.