Covert Influence: How Undisclosed Election Campaigns on Digital Media Steal American Democracy


Do digital platforms function as stealth media, a system that enables the deliberate operations of undisclosed political campaigns’ imperceptible targeting and furtive messaging? What impact do such political disinformation campaigns make in the elections? By utilizing a user-based, real-time ad tracking tool and “reverse engineering” techniques, independent from digital platforms, Kim’s research reveals the prevalence of foreign and domestic undisclosed campaigns and uncovers targeting, messaging, and organizational strategies of such undisclosed campaigns. By combining computational approaches with survey-based quasi-experimental approaches, Kim’s research assess the effects of undisclosed campaigns on electoral outcomes. The talk offers insight relevant for regulatory policies and discusses the normative implications for the functioning of democracy.


Young Mie Kim is a Professor of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a Faculty Affiliate of the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Kim’s research concerns data-driven, algorithm-based, digitally mediated political communication. Her recent research project, Project DATA (Digital Ad Tracking & Analysis), empirically investigates the sponsors, content, and targets of digital political campaigns across multiple platforms with a user-based, real-time, ad tracking tool that reverse engineers the algorithms of political campaigns. Kim’s research, “The Stealth Media? Groups and Targets behind Divisive Issue Campaigns on Facebook,” identified Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election on Facebook. The work received the Kaid-Sanders Best Article of the Year in Political Communication (2018) awarded by the International Communication Association. Kim testified at the Federal Election Commission‘s hearings on the rulemaking of internet communication disclaimers and presented Congressional briefings on election interference on social media. Her research on Russian election interference in the US presidential election was cited by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Kim spoke at the European Parliament on her research on data-driven political advertising and inequality in political involvement.

When / Where

April 13, 3:30pm

Note: For security purposes, access to the Zoom link is restricted to individuals with UW netIDs. If you do not have a netID and wish to attend, please contact Yuan Hsiao ( with the subject line “COM Colloquium.”