Facebook a bigger threat than Cambridge Analytica

  #CambridgeAnalytica INVESTIGATION

Robert Mercer is the one we should be talking about and who the Media should be talking about. Robert Mercer, Mark Zuckerberg and

@AP reported 180-page legal complaint filed by non-partisan Campaign Legal Center.

It claims Cambridge Analytica facilitated illegal co-ordination between Trump & PACs.

Cambridge Analytica Documents Show Unlawful Support for Trump in 2016


& there’s this: Bannon was in Kenya & met with Kenyatta to “seek advice” on running his political campaign for president of Kenya.



For the Americans: Cambridge Analytica started working for Trump in Sept, 2015 This contract dates from 11 months before it was announced that Cambridge Analytica was working for the Trump campaign. And overlaps with period when Cambridge Analytica was working for Ted Cruz.

Coordinated Communications is Illegal

New emails and documents out today further demonstrate how Cambridge Analytica was used to unlawfully influence U.S. politics.

New documents from a former Cambridge Analytica insider reveal what an election watchdog group claims was illegal coordination between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and a billionaire-funded pro-Trump super PAC.

The legal complaint touches on some of the same people involved in today’s hotly contested presidential race and provides a detailed account alleging that Trump’s last campaign worked around election rules to coordinate behind the scenes with the political action committee.

The now-defunct British data analytics firm violated election law by ignoring its own written firewall policy, blurring the lines between work created for Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Make America Number 1 super PAC, according to an updated complaint the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

The complaint also alleges that Cambridge Analytica — which improperly acquired and used 87 million Facebook users’ profiles to predict their behavior — had a shared project calendar for both entities, among other evidence.

“The idea that this spending was at all independent is farcical and these emails underscore that,” said Brendan Fischer, an attorney for the government oversight group, whose new filing supplements a complaint filed four years ago. “Cambridge Analytica not only misused people’s personal data, but it was a conduit for the wealthy family that owned it to unlawfully support the Trump campaign in 2016.”

The super PAC created a plethora of “crooked Hillary” memes that circulated widely on social media, and was financed largely by conservative billionaire Robert Mercer, who also founded, owned and managed Cambridge Analytica. Kellyanne Conway led an earlier incarnation of the PAC when it supported Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz before she resigned to advise Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Under federal law, a super PAC may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including from corporations and unions, to support candidates for federal office — but it’s illegal for them to coordinate with political campaigns.

The complaint alleges that Cambridge Analytica used information it gained from working with Trump’s campaign to develop and target ads for the super PAC supporting his candidacy, “constituting unreported in-kind contributions to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. in the form of coordinated communications.”

The cache of previously unreleased emails, presentations and slide decks was provided exclusively to The Associated Press by Cambridge Analytica’s first business development director, Brittany Kaiser. Last year, Kaiser published a book and starred in a film advocating for data security and regulation of social media.

The documents offer a rare window into how Cambridge collected vast troves of data about likely voters.

“Cambridge Analytica’s strategy with every new client they had was that the database grew smarter, because it would have more data from the campaigns they ran,” Kaiser said. “They would erase the data, but they would keep all the learning they derived off the back of it to target people more precisely.”

Since resigning from the data-mining firm and taking her computer with her, Kaiser has met with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and an associate of Julian Assange. Kaiser has also founded a nonprofit group for children’s digital education and is managing the presidential campaign of independent candidate Brock Pierce, a former child actor and cryptocurrency entrepreneur.

Some officials, like Conway and former Cambridge vice president Bannon, went on to play senior roles in the administration. Other people whose names appear in the emails have worked for organizations supporting Trump’s reelection bid.

They include Matt Oczkowski, Cambridge’s ex-head of product whose company HuMn Behavior has been paid at least $180,000 by the Trump 2020 campaign, and Brad Parscale, the 2016 campaign’s digital director who until July managed Trump’s reelection campaign.


And look who’s the man at the centre of it all: Cambridge Analytica’s final CEO, Julian Wheatland. It’s his private company Hatton International that’s the lynchpin here – the prime contractor.

Behind Cambridge Analytica lay a bigger threat to our democracy: Facebook
Jennifer Cobbe

The company denied it used the data in Trump’s 2016 campaign, an assertion which ex-employees have disputed, although Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the data could have been used in Russian propaganda efforts.

Mercer first supported a Conway-led super PAC backing Cruz for president. When Cruz dropped out, the Mercers threw their support to Trump and the political action committee became Make America Number 1.

Oczkowski, who Kaiser said she trained, joined Cambridge’s parent company in late 2015, according to the documents.

In one email, Oczkowski briefed colleagues on his efforts to win business from the National Rifle Association to work on its ‘Trigger the Vote’ campaign with Washington-based PR firm The Herald Group.

Documents show projects related to “Trigger The Vote” appear to have netted Cambridge work valued at $855,000 by early 2017.




More needs to be done to clamp down on big tech’s nefarious methods of influencing our politics and culture

Fri 16 Oct 2020

‘Facebook has belatedly followed Twitter to announce that, in the US, political advertising will be banned on its platform (albeit after the upcoming presidential elections), but these should not be their decisions.’

The scholar Evgeny Morozov writes about “technological solutionism”, where problems with complex socioeconomic origins are claimed to have simple technological solutions. We saw a kind of inversion of this after 2016: problems with complex socioeconomic origins were claimed to have simple technological causes. This requires magical thinking about new technologies’ capabilities, and too many bought Cambridge Analytica’s snake oil, as if one shady company could bend the electorate to its will with its spooky tech tools.

In fact, what Cambridge Analytica did in the US has been part of political campaigning across parties and around the world for years.

There are legal and ethical concerns about how micro-targeting is used across the political spectrum. Since they potentially allow campaigns to slice and dice the electorate, dividing voters into small groups, and are usually transient and fleeting, micro-targeted adverts can also be difficult to scrutinize. Particularly troubling is the prospect of campaigns using these tactics to suppress turnout among supporters of other candidates. Indeed, that was part of Trump’s digital strategy in 2016. Anyone who values healthy democracy should find this concerning.

But Cambridge Analytica played only a small role in Trump’s campaign. In fact, you don’t need Cambridge Analytica to do anything at all – Facebook gives you all the tools itself.

Facebook talks a lot about bad actors misusing its platform, but the biggest bad actor on Facebook is Facebook. Among many other criticisms, its advertising tools have been found to help target antisemites, discriminate against minority groups, and spread disinformation. Although it has tinkered around the edges, Facebook has done little to seriously address these or other problems at their source.

Facebook addresses symptoms rather than causes because its problems are in its DNA, central to how it makes its money. Its business model involves analysing data about everything its users do and using the insights gained to allow advertisers to target them. But Facebook is not the only company that does this. Surveillance capitalism, as it’s known, is the dominant way of making money from the internet. As a result, the web is now a global surveillance machine, fuelled by industrial-scale abuse of personal data.

These companies have voracious appetites for expansion in search of data to analyse and users to target. They have strategically positioned themselves in the centre of society, mediating our increasingly online reality. Their algorithms – far from being neutral tools, as they claim – are primed to keep users engaged with their platforms, regardless of how corrosive the content for doing that might be. As a result, some platforms’ algorithms systematically recommend disinformation, conspiracy theories white supremacism, and neo-Nazism, and are ripe for manipulation.

This raises questions that need answers – about the role of increasingly powerful tech giants in our society, about their surveillance and attention business models, and about the many opportunities for abuse. Although Cambridge Analytica was overblown, there are real problems with the power that Facebook and other platform companies hold over our democracy and in our society. Facebook has belatedly followed Twitter to announce that, in the US, political advertising will be banned on its platform (albeit after the upcoming presidential elections), but these should not be their decisions. Private companies prioritising profit shouldn’t be left to regulate our political processes.

Yes, these are private businesses, but they now play fundamental roles in our digital society. Interventions are needed to protect the common good. We need to address the surveillance business models, the widespread privacy violations, and – most of all – the power of platform companies. At a minimum, behavioural advertising should be banned; other, less damaging forms of advertising are available. The algorithms platforms use to recommend content should be heavily regulated.

Responses from competition law, data protection law, and other areas are also sorely needed to curb the power of platform companies. More ambitiously, a wholesale restructuring of the platform ecosystem may be required.

With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing much of daily life online, these questions are more urgent than ever.

Dr Jennifer Cobbe is a researcher and member of Cambridge University’s Trust & Technology Initiative