From 2006 to 2009, I worked primarily in the SEO and Reputation Management division of Visible Technologies. Another big division of the company did Social Media Analytics. Basically, we were forerunners to the companies talked about in this article – the ones that provided Peter Thiel, Steve Bannon, and others the data and capabilities to swing voters opinions with well placed lies, fake news, and exaggerations that play on their fears. I am now seeing a lot of techniques we used twisted for very nefarious ends (papering Google search results with Holocaust denier propaganda, fake hit pieces on opposing politicians, etc.) At Visible, we used ORM to build up lots of fake search results about various billionaires philanthropy in order to bury their misdeeds. I had some concerns about the ethics back then, but told myself we just were doing what any PR firm does – help tell the other side of a clients story. I am now very concerned that I am seeing outright lies and crazy manipulations being promoted on a daily basis.
What is really scary to me is seeing a lot of my own friends and people I respect here on Facebook who have been sucked in by the lies. We are living in very dangerous times now.