Is the internet swaying voters?

Naomi Nikolajsen questions Big Data’s ability to manipulate democracy

The World Today Updated 9 November 2020 Published 27 September 2018 5 minute READ

Naomi Nikolajsen

Senior Partner, Moten Analytics

If I could customize this article, producing different versions for different personality types, it has been suggested that I could more easily persuade people of my viewpoint, and even generate specific responses on the back of it. Apparently, computer algorithms are generating the kind of detailed personality data that might allow me to do this.

Audiences have heard several disconcerting assertions at Chatham House in recent months. Christopher Wylie, who served as director of research at the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, suggested that online messaging based on algorithmic analysis could manipulate people as if by a ‘whisper in [their] ear’. Michal Kosinski, one of the pioneers of individual analysis via digital records, argued that our ‘intimate traits’ could be assessed through our online activity.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.