Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Online Advertising as Influence Channel

Several years ago I pointed out that online advertising was a very cheap, simple way to reach  selective population most places in the world. Imagine you want to reach folks in Indonesia who can say weave, in South Africa interested in chemicals, or in Brazil interested in hacking cellphone chips. For a few 100 dollars, you can set up an ad campaign through many intermediaries and have it running in a few days.  Now imagine we substituted "enemies" for "country" and whatever you like, for "weave, chemicals, chips", and I thought this channel was far more effective and efficient than running old world spy operations, you can snoop and influence without having a personal presence or sophisticated electronic and broadcasting devices, in a highly targeted way.

In the past year or so,  the scenario above has played out in crucial ways.

Politics and governments aside, I am finally glad to see online ads get attention from media and researchers  as a potential influence channel. Over dinner I have asked folks, "Imagine you can spend a few hundred dollars and target **a specific person** in the world and govern messages they see online. What could one do?"


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