Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants his supporters to play political games, too.
While Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg testifies in front of Congress about how the social media platform was used to distort the American political process, Ted Cruz is bypassing Facebook with his latest attempt to use his followers’ electronic devices to boost his chances at re-election, according to National Public Radio.
With his specially-designed “Cruz’s Crew” app, the Texas Senator is attempting the gamification of political support. The app provides many of the typical functions of a campaign tool, giving daily news updates on Cruz’s activities and publishing a calendar of Cruz-related events, but with an added twist.
Cruz fans can earn points and see where they stand on a leaderboard of the Senator’s supporters by posting pro-cruz messages to social media, volunteering to work for the campaign, or by just buying their way to the top by donating money to Cruz’s campaign coffers.
“The idea was to gamify campaign activities,” explains Chris Wilson, the director of research and analytics for the Cruz campaign. “That’s kind of a new word that means create games and challenges around doing things that have always driven a political campaign.”
“What fun!” you may be thinking, supporting a favorite candidate (well, maybe not this particular candidate, but conceptually at least), and getting the chance to win valuable prizes. For Cruz fans, however, the only prize they get in exchange for their free social media campaigning is a shoutout from the Senator on his own social media accounts.
And while the app was developed by a company called Ucampaign, rather than Cambridge Analytica, it still raises serious questions about the use of peoples’ data gathered by the app; particularly through its use of a point system that rewards users for allowing the app to access their contact list (250 points). Given that donating actual cash to the campaign only garners a 10 point reward, you can imagine how valuable that information must be to the Senator’s campaign managers.
“While we don’t keep anything that they share, what it does allow us to do is identify within a person’s contact list, those voters that may be part of our core targeting list,” Wilson says.
“We have scored the entire national voter file, in terms of their likelihood to support Ted Cruz,” Wilson says. “So if we identify that you have 10 friends in Iowa who are potential Cruz supporters, then we’ll ask you to reach out to those people.”
With the nation aghast at how their innocent social media practices have been turned into political weapons, many people should be unhappy to learn that Cruz’s digital campaign is mining their supporters’ data for gold at the polling place.
Given who their candidate is and who his supporters are, however, the best way to describe the Senator’s whole app-based effort is to say that “Cruz’s Crew” is a who’s who of doo-doo.
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