New documents uncovered by the Center for Media and Democracy show that the billionaire Koch brothers have developed detailed personality profiles on 89 percent of the U.S. population; and are using those profiles to develop persuasion models — like their “Heroin Model” and “Heroin Treatment Model” — that target voters with tailored messaging on select issues, and partner with cable and satellite TV providers to play those tailored messages during “regular” television broadcasts.
Over the last decade, big data and microtargeting have revolutionized political communications. And the Kochs, who are collectively worth $120 billion, now stand at the forefront of that revolution — investing billions in data aggregation, machine learning, software engineering and Artificial Intelligence optimization.
In modern elections, incorporating AI into voter file maintenance has become a prerequisite to producing reliable data.
The Kochs’ political data firm, i360 states that it has “been practicing AI for years. Our team of data scientists uses components of Machine learning, Deep Learning and Predictive Analytics, every day as they build and refine our predictive models.”
Thanks to that investment (and the Supreme Court’s campaign finance rulings that opened the floodgates for super PACs), the Koch network is better positioned than either the Democratic Party or the GOP to reach voters with their individually tailored communications.
That is a dangerous development, with potentially dramatic consequences for our democracy.
THE KOCHS AND i360
The Kochs formally entered the data space nine years ago, developing the “Themis Trust” program for the 2010 midterms — an uncommonly impactful election cycle where Republican operatives executed their REDMAP program and algorithmically gerrymandered congressional maps across the country in their favor.
In 2011, the Kochs folded Themis into a data competitor it acquired, i360 LLC, which was founded by Michael Palmer, the former chief technology officer of Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. Palmer still leads the organization.
INSIDE THE i360 VOTER FILE
i360’s voter file identifies “more than 199 million active voters and 290 million U.S. consumers,” and provides its users with up to 1,800 unique data points on each identified individual.
As a result, i360 and the Kochs know your vitals, ethnicity, religion, occupation, hobbies, shopping habits, political leanings, financial assets, marital status and much more.
They know if you enjoy fishing — and if you do, whether you prefer salt or fresh water. They know if you have bladder control difficulty, get migraines or have osteoporosis. They know which advertising mediums (radio, TV, internet, email) are the most effective.
They know where you live, what your mortgage status is and even how many bathrooms are in your house.
Much of i360’s success is based on understanding (through extensive polling) local voters’ policy preferences and tailoring different messaging for the same candidate to different voters to match each voter’s preferences.
In effect, the Kochs are tailoring their advertising to you. And they can do that because they know nearly everything about you.
(Excerpted and reprinted from Salon.)