Democratising Software? Situating Political Campaigning technology in the UK’s EU Referendum

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Democratic Situations

In 2016, in the wake of the UK’s EU referendum, a series of controversies emerged about the use of personal data and computational tools by political campaigns to target their messages to potential voters. These controversies were sparked by a scandal involving the political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica gaining access to large volumes of social media data and using psychological profiling to advise political campaigns in both the UK and the US. In the UK, public inquiries have since been conducted by the Electoral Commission (2018a, 2018b), the Information Commissioner (2018) and the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Select Committee (2019) about the harvesting of personal data from digital platforms, campaigns’ spending irregularities on social media advertising and the roles of tech companies and political consultants in online disinformation campaigns (see also Howard and Kollanyi 2016). Some commentators have argued that such technologies, and the companies that run them, potentially compromise the very basis for free and fair elections

Laurie Waller & David Moats
article/academic publication