Citizens have the right to know how their political opinion is being influenced and how their information and data is collected, traded and used to this end. The Influence Industry Project brings together researchers, journalists, and civil society to create research, resources and training materials that raise awareness and promote conversations about how political groups engage with technology and work with private firms to influence voters' opinions and decisions.
With partners and collaborators worldwide, the project promotes accessibility and understanding, empowering civic engagement and responses to the influence of data-driven tactics in election campaigns. This is how we are doing it.
Produced by Tactical Tech.
New data available on the Influence Industry Explorer database: the services offered by private firms and the political parties that pay for them
Are you covering or monitoring elections or are you investigating and researching how political parties work with data-driven technologies and private firms to influence election outcomes? Then you can’t miss out on the latest updates of the Influence Industry Explorer, a database that catalogs more than 500 of the companies involved in the international industry of political influence.
Now researchers and journalists are able to see which political parties hired specific firms and what types of services those firms provide. Many influence firms don’t list the parties, campaigns or candidates that hired their services. However, by carefully assessing company websites, cross-referencing secondary sources and using electoral records, Tactical Tech’s research team has been able to identify more than 80 political parties around the world who have used digital services for influence as well as over 75 types of work or services offered by the companies ranging from “Dismisinformation” to “Opinion Research”.
Case Studies: Find out how the Influence Industry operates in different corners of the world
From Lebanon to Argentina. From Benin to Nepal. All across the world there are private firms offering services to political parties. We have partnered with over fifteen journalists, investigators and researchers worldwide who use the Influence Industry Explorer database as a research tool to examine the influence industry in their countries and contexts. These are the latest pieces that you can’t miss out on:
- The Industry Behind Your Vote: A Visual Essay, by Sihang Sun uses on the US Federal Election Commission’s spending database to show a visual representation of the 2020 Trump campaign influence spending. Read here.
- Google Ads in Election Campaigns, by Glyn Thomas serves as an explainer for how Google Ads and YouTube ads function with examples from political firms and campaigns. Read here.
- The Transparency of Facebook Disclaimers in the 2022 Lebanon Elections, by Rayan Shaya explores the effectiveness of political advertisement disclaimers on Meta platforms during the 2022 Lebanese elections. Read here.
- The influence industry in Argentinean Elections: Tracking Firms through financial reporting, Milena Alvarez and Manuela Giménez Bautista used the Explorer database as a foundation to inform their own work as well as enriching the database. Using electoral records available after the Argentinean legislative elections, the Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC) researchers were able to identify and catalog over fifteen companies. Read here.
- What Benin can learn from the role of the Influence Industry in West Africa, by Dr. Qemal Affnagon gathers examples from across the African continent to demonstrate how telecoms companies can serve as political influencers. Read here.
- Online platforms, Polling, and Misinformation: Electioneering strategies in Nepal, by Tilak Prasad Pathak and Ujjwal Prajapati captures the current digital electioneering strategies and climate in Nepalese politics with special attention paid to the 2022 elections. Read here.
Learning Modules for Professionals: All you need to know to master the art of investigating the Influence Industry
Are you interested in understanding how political influence works but you don't know where to start? The Learning Hub modules are designed as resources for professionals who are interested to learn more about the history of political campaigning, key concepts, how to develop research and understand the data available. Our most recent modules cover the dilemmas of using personal data in political influence as well as the research methods to investigate the topic anywhere in the world.
Research Methods of Investigating the Influence Industry, written by guest author Tetyana Bohdanova this module helps investigators narrow their research questions as well as offers practical advice for which capabilities might be needed during an investigation and gives advice for a wide range of topics including legal considerations when publishing an investigation. Explore and learn.
The Dilemmas of Using Personal Data for Political Influence explores the impact of the political influence industry on politics and, broadly, the accompanying society. By examining contemporary examples, this module provides context for how the influence industry practices affect current political practices. Explore and learn.
The Influence Industry Project: Interview Series
The eight-part interview series, which is facilitated by the expert Varoon Bashyakarla, highlights the work of international professionals, who engage with the influence industry in a variety of practices. Listeners will learn about how data leaks are reported, the colonial legacies of voting practices in Kenya and how politicians and technologists enthusiasm may leave millions of people’s personal data compromised in India.
The interview series includes:
- Bob Diachenko, Ukraine, cyber-security expert examining international data leaks and hacks. Listen
- Linda Bonyo and Catherine Muya, Kenya, discuss the intersection of law and technology. Listen
- Tetyana Bohdanova, Ukraine, talks about her research into the 2019 Ukrainian elections. Listen
- Nino Macharashvili, Georgia, examines the burgeoning influence industry in Georgia. Listen
- Rafael Zanatta, Brazil, illustrates how legal entities are fighting for citizen rights in Brazil. Listen
- Eliana Quiroz, Bolivia, describes her work as a digital rights activist. Listen
- Kumar Sambhav, India, examines his investigations into data practices and leaks across India. Listen
- Hon. Neema Lugangira, Tanzania, delves into her work as an MP fighting for digital equity and protections. Listen