Bad News is not Fake News: Not All Digital Campaigning is Dark Arts
Kyle Taylor from the Fair Vote project argues modern microtargeting shouldn’t be abandoned to shady billionaire-funded right-wing groups.
It has become abundantly clear in the past four weeks that reservations about digital microtargeting are giving hard Brexiters and their dark arts a free pass in this election. The left — who pioneered digital campaigning during Obama’s two Presidential campaigns —have defined it as dubious, disingenuous and, the most extreme I’ve heard, morally bankrupt. This is in large part because the use of digital campaigning as a whole has been framed entirely by how dubious, disingenuous and morally bankrupt people have exploited it with disinformation.
There is a difference, however, between fake news and bad news. Fake news isn’t true. Bad news is true, you just wish it wasn’t. There’s nothing dubious about telling people the truth, however upsetting it might be.
In this election, it’s not too late to counter the billionaire-funded, Tory Brexit aligned network of 3rd-party campaigning groups. The YouGov MRP released last week showed two things. First, that if nothing is done, there will be a huge Conservative majority. That means a blank cheque for Boris’ withdrawal agreement and likely crashing out of the single market next year. The second story, however, was one of hope. Small changes among key voter groups in around 75 seats could push the country into the hung parliament territory in which Brexit can be stopped.
Over the summer we assembled a group of party and non-party campaigners who were willing to do what it takes to stop a Conservative majority and use the latest advances in digital microtargeting.
Our aim has always been to counterbalance the overwhelming networked money and power of the New Right with an effective, targeted, transparent digital campaign that would inform people about what’s at stake in this election. We’ve spent months optimising digital adverts, focused on the voters we need to move in each constituency at an exceptionally low cost. Everything is tested and targeted.
This election campaign could not have started worse for the Remain movement. The message on how to vote tactically was riddled with contradictions. The early splinter in the organisation unfairly forced even the organisation’s staff to pick their loyalties to different factions. There has been more acrimonious energy from within their movement than towards their genuine opponents. This meant a robust, independent progressive program was essential.
We are the only team with significant international political experience on the anti-Tory majority side running this type of strategic campaigning. This election isn’t just about Brexit. It’s about whether we live in a country that has a National Health Service worthy of the name, where an independent media is respected and the needs of the vulnerable are no longer trampled on. The stakes could not be higher.
The Conservatives are currently polling on 43% nationally, which means a majority of the country does not want a Conservative government. However, the progressive parties fragmented (including the refusal of campaign teams to stand down in seats they clearly can’t win) and some in the Remain movement have lost sight of the greater threat at exactly the wrong moment.
Our opponents will never run out of money. As an organisation and campaign, we risk losing because some would rather feel right than win. We think it’s possible to do both. So today, we’re asking people to dig deep to help us stop the Tories now. There is still hope. It’s time that we fight fire with fire until nobody is allowed to use it anymore.