A new book about the burgeoning phenomenon of election hacking, a problem that is far more complex than many people realize.
Technology journalist Moore, the director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power, begins with an overview of the internet’s genesis as a utopian frontier pioneered by 1960s counterculture visionaries. Chronicling the later development of Google, Facebook, and other social media, he examines how they transmogrified from innocent, beneficial elements of the cyberworld into revenue-driven tools of blatant capitalism. Starting with Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008, Moore details the development of the internet’s role in political campaigns. It has morphed from a place to organize and canvass into a cynical and chaotic battlefield of “memetic warfare,” smear campaigns, and electoral discord. Sorting through the evolution of online forum 4chan and its offspring, the author examines how Steve Bannon and Breitbart News co-opted the once-apolitical resident hackers and trollers of these “meme factories,” spinning them into an army of guerrillas bent on sabotaging the 2016 presidential campaign. “[They] hacked opinion polls, raided opposing communities, doxxed journalists, harassed critics, gamed social media and baited mainstream media,” writes Moore. “They used digital tools and platforms to do to politics what Silicon Valley had already done to the economy and society, to cause disruption.” In what’s been dubbed “surveillance capitalism,” the author shows the staggering degree to which Google and Facebook now gather both consumer and personal data as commodities to increase stock value. Moore demonstrates how these data have affected elections across the world, in the Philippines, Turkey, India, Iran, Britain, and beyond. The author also tackles Vladimir Putin’s global “covert army” now sewing discord and undermining democratic processes, the nuanced involvement of Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms, and much more.
Less about solutions and more about the degree and details of the crisis, this volume on the digital disintegration of democratic processes is at once engrossing, instructive, and urgently necessary.