Many of President Trump’s critics believe his campaign resorted to nefarious means on Facebook to tilt the 2016 election in his favor. According to one Facebook executive, however, that theory is bunk.
Why was Trump elected? Andrew Bosworth, the executive in question, said President Trump “ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser. Period.”
So was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected?” Bosworth writes. “I think the answer is yes, but not for the reasons anyone thinks. He didn’t get elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica. He got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser. Period.”
In practical terms, Cambridge Analytica is a total non-event. They were snake oil salespeople. The tools they used didn’t work, and the scale they used them at wasn’t meaningful. Every claim they have made about themselves is garbage. Data of the kind they had isn’t that valuable to being with and worse it degrades quickly, so much so as to be effectively useless in 12-18 months. In fact the United Kingdom Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) seized all the equipment at Cambridge Analytica and found that there was zero data from any UK citizens! So surely, this is one where we can ignore the press, right? Nope. The platform was such a poor move that the risks associated were bound to come to light. That we shut it down in 2014 and never paid the piper on how bad it was makes this scrutiny justified in my opinion, even if it is narrowly misguided.
Bosworth, who adamantly supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, added he was impressed by then-digital director Brad Parscale’s ad game:
To be clear, I’m no fan of Trump. I donated the max to Hillary. After his election I wrote a post about Trump supporters that I’m told caused colleagues who had supported him to feel unsafe around me (I regret that post and deleted shortly after).
But Parscale and Trump just did unbelievable work. They weren’t running misinformation or hoaxes. They weren’t microtargeting or saying different things to different people. They just used the tools we had to show the right creative to each person. The use of custom audiences, video, ecommerce, and fresh creative remains the high water mark of digital ad campaigns in my opinion.
Bosworth then wrote efforts to thwart Trump’s 2020 re-election efforts should be denounced and discouraged, adding, “As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome…I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear.”
Here’s Andrew Bosworth’s full post addressing the memo: