The left is outraged that President Trump’s campaign used data mining to win the 2016 election – but neither the media nor Democrats seemed to mind when President Obama’s team did the same thing.
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro penned a column for The Hill on Tuesday headlined, “What’s genius for Obama is scandal when it comes to Trump,” which outlined the differences in the way similar news was covered during contrasting administrations.
Shapiro surfaced a 2012 report from The Guardian that proclaimed Obama’s reelection team was mining data through Facebook to target specific voters. The Guardian is also the publication that reported on political data analytics company Cambridge Analytica and its ties to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Cambridge Analytica is accused of harvesting data to build profiles on 50 million Facebook users, who agreed to fill out a survey, in an attempt to help Team Trump target specific voters with ads and stories.
Shapiro noted that Facebook didn’t object when Obama’s team used tactics similar to what Trump’s campaign employed, noting that a former Obama campaign staffer recently admitted Facebook didn’t try to stop Obama’s 2012 re-election team because the company wanted him to win.
Obama’s campaign built a database of every American voter using the same Facebook developer tool used by Cambridge, known as the social graph API, according to the Washington Post. This technology allowed the Obama campaign to access information of voters to figure out “which people would be most likely to influence other people in their network to vote,” according to the paper.
“Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing,” ex-Obama campaign staffer Carol Davidsen tweeted on Sunday from her verified account.
"As soon as Facebook realized that Cambridge Analytica had pursued a similar strategy, they suspended the firm."
Davidsen said that Facebook was candid and revealed that the company allowed the Obama campaign to do things it wouldn’t have allowed someone from the opposing side to get away with.
“Not so with Trump. As soon as Facebook realized that Cambridge Analytica had pursued a similar strategy, they suspended the firm,” Shapiro wrote. “This isn’t surprising. Since Trump’s election, Democrats -- in search of a rationale for their favored candidate’s defeat -- have blamed a bevy of social media outlets.”
Facebook has agreed to brief House Judiciary Committee staff as soon as Wednesday following the fallout over Cambridge Analytica’s use and exploitation of user data from some 50 million people. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been under fire for remaining silent on the issue, but Axios reported that he may finally break his silence.
“Zuckerberg plans to speak out in the next 24 hours on the data-harvesting revelations that have hammered his stock price, inflamed lawmakers in D.C. and Europe, and trapped his social network in a crisis of trust,” Axios’ Mike Allen wrote on Wednesday.
A glowing 2012 Time article about the data mining was used by Obama staffers was headlined, “Friended: How the Obama Campaign Connected with Young Voters,” and went on to explain how social networks are changing the way modern, sophisticated politicians campaign. “By 2016, this sort of campaign-driven sharing over social networks is almost certain to be the norm,” the article stated.
Headlines tying the 2016 Trump campaign to data mining have been strikingly different.
The New York Times wrote, “How Trump consultants exploited the Facebook Data of millions,” while liberal cable news pundits have agonized over the news.
“When Obama was exploiting Facebook users to help win re-election, it was an act of political genius. When Trump attempted something similar, with unclear results, it's a travesty of democracy and further evidence that somehow he stole the election,” the editorial board of Investor’s Business Daily concluded.
Meanwhile, Shapiro doesn’t even think the “supposedly nefarious workings” of data mining by the Trump campaign influenced the outcome of the election.
“It didn’t win Trump the election, by the way. Trump won the election because Hillary was an unbelievably crappy candidate and Trump campaigned in the right places,” Shapiro said on Tuesday. “It’s just nonsense.”
Fox News’ Lukas Mikelionis contributed to this report.