Facebook, Twitter, Google ’embeds’ boosted Trump campaign: study

Donald Trump could think/tweet all he wants that Facebook was on Hillary Clinton’s side. But his presidential campaign got a bigger boost than expected from Facebook, Twitter and Google, according to a new study.

The tech giants are already set to testify in front of U.S. lawmakers next week amid investigations into Russian meddling — by way of fake news and ads — in the U.S. presidential election. But the companies’ tools and employees also played an active role in helping affect the outcome.

The study was done by communications professors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Utah, who talked to tech company employees and campaign officials and concluded that “political communication scholars need to consider social media firms as more active agents in political processes” than previously thought.

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They found that the level of help the Trump campaign received amounted to “critical” support that included tech company employees who “frequently acted more like political operatives,” according to Politico, which first reported on the study.

The support included helping target hard-to-reach voters, and even helping prepare responses to issues and questions that were expected to come up during debates, the 23-page study shows.

Employees from the companies were physically present in a Trump campaign office in San Antonio, Texas.

“Facebook, Twitter, and Google [went] beyond promoting their services and facilitating digital advertising buys,” the study says, adding that the companies’ efforts included “actively shaping campaign communications through their close collaboration with political staffers.”

This conclusion seems to be in line with what Trump’s digital director, Brad Parscale, told “60 Minutes” earlier this month, that Facebook “embeds” were a big help in ensuring Trump’s victory. Facebook’s response at the time: It provided help to the campaign like it would any other campaign.

Facebook’s response this time: same.

“We offer all candidates and interest groups equal levels of support, no matter their political affiliation,” a company spokesman told SiliconBeat Thursday. “It’s up them to decide how much help they want. But this is key: the campaigns make their own strategic decisions about how to use Facebook’s platform.”

Twitter and Google responded similarly, according to Politico, saying it was all standard: They provide help to their ad clients.

The study suggests that Trump’s campaign benefited from being short-staffed, since it was more willing to take help. “One, they found that they were getting solid advice and it worked, and two, it’s cheaper,” Nu Wexler, Twitter’s former director of public policy communications, told the study’s researchers shortly after the inauguration. “It’s free labor.”

The Clinton campaign, which was called “well-resourced” by the researchers, used “in-house design and targeting,” according to the study.

Politico also said Clinton’s campaign rejected the notion that it “failed to take advantage of a valuable resource,” and that the campaign was in regular touch with the tech companies.

It appears that would be a good idea for political campaigns from now on.

Daniel Kreiss, an associate professor in the School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and of the study’s authors, told SiliconBeat that compared with previous political campaigns, “the help of technology firms is absolutely more important now given that these platforms are growing more sophisticated.”

Also last week, a report showed that Facebook and Google had a role in helping push anti-Muslim ads in swing states during the election, despite the companies’ public, pro-immigrant and pro-refugee stance.


Photos: Donald Trump, left, and Hillary Clinton. (Mary Altaffer, Chuck Burton/AP)


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  • Richard Downing

    Trumps team took advantage of services offered by these companies and it appears that Hillary did not, what law was broken by doing that?

    • 8wSjBnt0cszierqduo12

      Look at the source of these reports, from two states generally considered to be conservative DC establishment. The report cited in the final paragraph has no citation whatsoever.

      The entrenched telecommunication companies, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Charter et al have made it their mission to usurp the success of these Silicon Valley companies and by association the entire state of California.

      Critical to this effort was the quiet uncontested FCC decision earlier this year to create a “level playing field” where privacy protections are concerned. These entrenched ISPs can now track ALL of your traffic as opposed to Google et al who receive your permission to track when you choose to visit their site.

      Verizon purchased AOL/Yahoo in an effort to build their own social presence to eventually counteract the success of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Silicon Valley. These reports are a contribution to that “campaign”.

      The entrenched telecommunications companies long ago embedded/embraced “evil” as standard operating principle. We cannot praise Google loudly enough for their decision refusing Communist Chinese requests for censorship. That decision required true fortitude and conviction to ideals. The adversity continues…