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!Media Alert! Who needs the Russians When We Have Cambridge Analytica?

A round-up of the hottest takes from the best UK Indy Media


In this week’s edition of Media Alert:

  • The Cambridge Analytica Scandal
  • Our Picks of the Week

Media Alert is a weekly bulletin discussing issues impacting on the UK independent media and highlighting some of the best recent work from the sector.

It’s brought to you by The Media Fund, a co-operative of over 30 partners seeking to raise funds and advocate for quality independent journalism.


The Weeks Big Stories

Essential new from the frontlines of media politics

Who needs the Russians When We Have Cambridge Analytica?

Recent revelations about the methods of Cambridge Analytica via the whistleblower, Christopher Wylie and Channel 4 confirm the worst and more about what many have suspected for some time.

Senior representatives of the firm, riddled with links to the British establishment and the Tory Party, were filmed discussing how they utilise traditional spook tactics such as bribery entrapment, and stings, as well as the more hi-tech work behind manipulating and exploiting voters deep-seated hopes and fears on social media.

Facebook has now suspended the company, who had for years been harvesting data on 10s of millions of people through such methods as those “fun” seeming quizzes, which people often engage in. This data was then improperly used to target propaganda at social media users, seeking to establish “informational dominance” on behalf of clients. Facebook’s knowledge of such activity goes back at least 2 years. The oft lionised Mark Zuckerberg now sporting considerable egg on his face.

Trying to downplay the issue, Cambridge Analytica claimed on Twitter that people are smarter than to be coerced by advertising, but elsewhere they boast of engaging “data-driven behavior change”. It’s long been true of all advertising that we may think ourselves above its influence, but if it didn’t work then capitalists simply wouldn’t pay for it.

All sides in politics engage in propaganda and adapt with the time, but while the outcomes of such manipulation may not necessarily be favorable to right-wing and establishment forces, it is such forces that invariably have the most money for such work.

Coverage in the Media

The revelations have gone viral in the last couple days, with the BBC has come under fire for some shoddy coverage.

Beyond the initial noise of the exposures, there are broader considerations regarding how social media users relate to content, and implications for independent media.

Some people are pushing the idea that we should “Delete Facebook”, although blogger Another Angry Voice strongly rejects this idea, noting how helpful grassroots social media activity in drumming up support for Corbyn and The Labour Party.

It could be that this case speaks to a phenomenon whereby the amount of agency and engagement on the part of social media users (as compared to legacy media) can make us somehow even more susceptible to manipulation. We may think that info (or disinfo) we imbibe is more ours, personal to us, a product of our discernment – “duh MSM is garbage I discovered this for myself.” Thus we could take content event more to heart and surround ourselves with a plethora of content which suits “our” discovery like a teenager getting into new bands.

What does this mean for Indy Media?

The episode also further underlines the need for independent progressive media, more grassroots in nature and generally with fewer resources, to continue downsizing reliance on huge platforms for exposure, because those platforms for exposure, through commercial pressures and manipulation, crowd out smaller voices.

We need to be assertive and savvy in encouraging people to be more discerning in how they source their news content because just going with what social media sticks in front of us risks being little better than the old days of being exposed to only a few establishment TV channels and a handful of press baron newspapers.

Picks of the Week

Our hand-picked selections from some of the best independent journalism around

Coercive Communications: A Conversation with Christopher Simpson – Media Democracy Podcast

Along with a round-up of recent news about politics, media and the politics of the media, Dan Hind and Tom Mills welcome Professor Christopher Simpson in a fascinating conversation about the history of propaganda and communication studies in the post-WW2 period.

Find Media Democracy Podcast on Twitter @mediademocrat

Working Class Britain? You Must Be White – Kam Sandhu, New Internationalist

New Internationalist’s Kam Sandhu challenges a common unspoken assumption that working class necessarily means “white”, the term “white working class” has often been toxified to imply that the white working class is disadvantaged more for their colour than their class – a myth which is fundamentally anti-working class.


Find New Internationalist on Twitter @newint

The Stanstead 15 follows a Long Tradition of Direct Action in The UK – But They Also Go Beyond It – Ewa Jaziewicz, Novara Media

A discussion of the court case of 15 people facing up to life imprisonment for car park blockade last year which prevented dozens of deportations, and how the action fits in with a tradition of British direct action and solidarity activism.

Find Novara Media on Twitter @novaramedia


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