Do digital platforms function as stealth media, a system that enables the deliberate operations of undisclosed political campaigns’ imperceptible targeting and furtive messaging? This talk presents empirical research on covert digital political campaigns sponsored by unidentifiable, untraceable groups. By utilizing a user-based, real-time ad tracking tool and “reverse engineering” techniques, independent from tech platforms, Kim’s research reveals the prevalence of foreign and domestic undisclosed campaigns and uncovers targeting, messaging and organizational strategies of such undisclosed campaigns. The talk offers insight relevant for regulatory policies and discusses the normative implications for the functioning of democracy.
Young Mie Kim is an Andrew Carnegie Fellow (2019), Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Fall 2020 Visiting Scholar with the Annenberg School’s Center for Media at Risk. Kim’s research concerns data-driven, algorithm-based, digitally mediated political communication. Her recent research project, Project DATA (Digital Ad Tracking & Analysis), empirically investigates the sponsors, content and targets of digital political campaigns across multiple platforms with a user-based, real-time, ad tracking tool that reverse engineers the algorithms of political campaigns. Kim’s research, “The Stealth Media? Groups and Targets behind Divisive Issue Campaigns on Facebook” received the Kaid-Sanders Best Article of the Year in Political Communication (2018) awarded by the International Communication Association. Kim testified at the Federal Election Commission’s hearings on the rulemaking of internet communication disclaimers. Her research on Russian election interference in the US presidential election was cited by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Kim spoke at the European Parliament on her research on data-driven political advertising and inequality in political involvement.