Facebook is being criticized these days for the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

That’s the company that analyzed millions of Facebook profiles to help President Donald Trump win the election over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Cambridge Analytica was a political data firm hired by President Trump’s election campaign. The company was funded by Robert Mercer, a wealthy Republican donor, and Stephen K. Bannon, a former Trump adviser.

According to reporting in the New York Times, the company “gained access to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users. The firm offered tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior.” (Now, Facebook says it was more like 87 million.)

The researchers gathered the data by asking Facebook users to take a personality survey and download an app. The app scraped information from the users’ profiles and those of their friends. At the time, back in 2014, Facebook permitted this. It has since been banned.

The NYT goes on:

“The data, a portion of which was viewed by The New York Times, included details on users’ identities, friend networks and ‘likes.’ The idea was to map personality traits based on what people had liked on Facebook, and then use that information to target audiences with digital ads.”

This is being portrayed as a horrible – and maybe criminal – misuse of social media. The activity has been characterized as nothing short of psychological warfare unleashed on an unsuspecting public.

This seems odd to me.


Because the guy who occupied the Oval Office  right before Trump – President Barack Obama – was hailed as brilliant for doing more or less the same darn thing.

During Obama’s campaigns, there were dozens of positive articles written about the effectiveness of his social media push.

Here’s part of an article from the January 2013 edition of National Psychologist under the headline: “How Obama Won the Social Media Battle in the 2012 Presidential Campaign.”

It was written by Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center. She also serves on the faculty at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology.

She wrote that Obama was the “first presidential candidate to effectively use social media as a major campaign strategy.”

The article ran to about 1,200 glowing words with subheads like, “Participatory Democracy,” “Individual Agency,” “A Campaign Of Memes,” “The Use Of Big Data” and “Smart Social Media Strategy Matters.”

You can check out the whole thing here:


But one noteworthy point came near the end of the piece:

“A final aspect of the Obama campaign’s social media success comes from the increasing sophistication of online data collection. We may equate data harvesting with large online presences such as Google or Amazon, but they aren’t the only ones mining user data. The ability to collect and analyze data on a large scale allowed the Obama team to model behaviors and coordinate and target communications. They could, for example, predict which types of people could be persuaded by which forms of contact and content.”

Seven months later, Rutledge was interviewed on LaserFiche.com. There, she said:

“The (Obama) campaign also made use of data mapping by combining it with the psychological drivers of persuasion and influence. They had algorithms that looked for patterns between opinions and myriad other data on individual voters drawn from voter registration records, consumer data warehouses and past campaigns. The microtargeted models created, for example, scripted conversations for specific voters that increased the relevance of the messages to the receiver.”

So what’s the difference? Seems to me both campaigns mined data and used it to get vote?

If anything, given Rutledge’s analysis, Obama’s operation makes Trump’s look amateurish.

Certainly there are privacy issues at stake here. It’s like they were treating social media users like lab rats.

And the practice of data mining seems creepy and intrusive, but why was it only creepy and intrusive when Trump was doing it?

Why is Trump’s data mining awful and Obama’s data mining awesome?

There are lots of things like this that I can’t figure out. Take this whole Russian collusion thing.

Trump is being investigated to see if his campaign colluded with Russians to help him win the election.

Former White House Counsel under Obama, Bob Bauer, writing for LawfareBlog.com, said this: “There can be little doubt about the relevance of the senior Trump campaign staff meeting in the summer of 2016 with a traveling party from Moscow that came with a direct expression of support from the Russian government and an offer of derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.”

He argues that if there is evidence that a presidential campaign established a political alliance with a foreign power, it needs to be investigated.

Fair enough. I agree.

But we also know that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee hired an opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, which in turn hired former British spy Christopher Steel.

Steel met with lots of “sources” in Russia and created his now-infamous Trump dossier, which chronicled all manner of alleged collusion between Trump and the Russian government – along with some tawdry activities involving Russian hookers.

Though the names of Steele’s sources were redacted from his reports, experts believe at least some of them were Russian government officials since Steele, as a Russian spy, had numerous Russian government contacts.

So if the Trump campaign should be investigated for meeting with Russians to dig up dirt on Hillary, shouldn’t the Hillary campaign be investigated for hiring somebody to meet with Russians to dig up dirt on Trump?

Perhaps there are some legal or political distinctions here I am too dumb to understand.

But generally, it looks like the level of scrutiny applied to certain political behaviors – especially by the media – depends not so much on the behavior, but on whose behavior is being scrutinized.

Bottom line?

They’re all crooked.