Advancing knowledge of the influence industry

4 minutes read | First published: May 14, 2023
Screenshot of the methodology section created by consultant Tetyana Bohdanova
Tactical Tech interviewed Independent Researcher and Consultant Tetyana Bohdanova, who shared insights into the collaboration with the Influence Industry Project.
Tetyana Bohdanova is a researcher from Ukraine. Her work has been largely focused on election monitoring, digital security and voter engagement with an emphasis on how technology can be used within social movements and elections.
Tactical Tech: How do you imagine a different digital future?
Tetyana Bohdanova: I am very interested in how data can influence things on the political level. I dream we have transparency and an understanding of how data is used in politics. I want citizens to be aware of technology's role to be able to ask questions about how the different political forces and governments treat their data and what they will do with it. I also want them not to feel disillusioned by technology and [for the politicians and governments to] use it to build trust, not ruin trust.
TT: What is the project's mission?
TB: We are figuring out what is happening in this field. We can only speak about regulation or raising awareness once we know how technology is being used to influence voters' opinions. At this point, we are just scratching the surface. Tracking the journey of one's data in this context is exciting but challenging.
TT: Could you share some insights into the collaboration with Tactical Tech?
TB:The collaboration with Tactical Tech helped me structure my initial research and report on how data was used in the Ukrainian context [in 2019]. This has turned into ongoing research. Now I am learning about the methodologies and specific aspects of the influence industry. Tactical Tech's experience with running workshops has helped me shape how I would reach this out [meaning, expand my research and disseminate findings] - it has increased my knowledge and skills.
Advocacy is the next stage; we must work with people who can create change. I like sharing knowledge and raising awareness, but it needs to feed into change.
TT: How did your project and the partnership make a difference? 
TB:The skills I developed during the collaboration turned into a module in the Learning Hub of the Influence Industry Project website named "Research Methods for Investigating the Influence Industry" and new materials for other researchers. Through this process, I have met many people and explored different areas. Everything is coming together for us to continue working on the field - the work I have done has been able to build off itself through this lasting relationship with Tactical Tech and has given me opportunities to share my work and research with others [in the election observation/election protection community].
Sections for Module Research Methods for Investigating the Influence Industry
In this learning module, you will be guided through the steps necessary for conducting an investigation into how political actors use personal data in political campaigns and how to form questions based on some of the concerns that arise at the intersection of privacy and digital election campaigning. The chapter draws on examples of investigating elections from around the world.
Takeaways Module Research Methods for Investigating the Influence Industry
Related Resources:
In 2019, Ukraine held national elections in which political parties embraced digital campaigning tools. After the election, researcher Tetyana Bohdanova investigated these tools and whether they were in line with national and party privacy policies. Varoon Bashyakarla and Tetyana discuss her research about the national elections, the political landscape in 2021 and the historical events that are critical to understanding the 2019 elections.
Note: This interview was recorded in June 2021, 8 months before the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.