Influence policing: a view from the cockpit of UK law enforcement’s domestic digital influence campaigns

Talk by Ben Collier ⚠️

Saturday from 1:30 PM - 2:00 PM in Stage B

This talk has the following content notes:
Discussion of police campaigns about sensitive issues - migration, online abuse and grooming, gender based violence. No explicit images or content but topics may be upsetting - especially some of the stereotyped or racist targeting used by some police campaigns, and discussion of Home Office anti-refugee campaigns.

Critical research on digital influence and micro targeting has generally focused on privacy violations by commercial marketers and Cambridge Analytica-style political manipulation. But increasingly, the UK government, police, and security services are using these tools for public policy. The targeted advertising and influence platforms give public sector actors complex tools with which to target behaviour change communications - allowing them to tailor nudge messages based on online behaviour, interests, and fine-detail location. This is allowing the police to use targeted behaviour change advertising to attempt to prevent crime before it happens - but poses serious questions for accountability, ethics, and privacy. Drawing on a dataset of more than 12,000 government adverts from the Meta Ad Library and in-depth interviews with law enforcement, we map the landscape of what we call 'influence policing' in the UK, and discuss the ethical and democratic implications of this new mode of policing.

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