On Tuesday, Channel 4 released the latest installment in its undercover series on Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm that has credited itself with securing Donald Trump’s election victory. Amid the fallout from the story, the data firm announced that it had suspended CEO Alexander Nix pending a full investigation.
Meanwhile, the Daily Beast reported on Tuesday that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg were nowhere to be found at a meeting meant to brief Facebook employees on the company’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica.
In the first installment of the Channel 4 story, whistleblower Chris Wylie described how the company harvested 50 million Facebook users’ profile data. In the second installment, an undercover reporter posing as a wealthy Sri Lankan fixer got Cambridge Analytica’s top executives to seemingly admit to using bribes and honeypots to entrap political opponents.
In the latest sting video, the data firm’s top executives seem to take credit for Trump’s 2016 win, and brag about influencing elections while keeping Cambridge Analytica’s name hidden from its work.
“We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy,” Nix says in the most recent video.
Later in the video, Cambridge Analytica’s managing director, Mark Turnbull, appears to boast about the company’s ability to create proxy organizations that feed negative information about political opponents to voters through social media while covering its own tracks.
“We just put information into the bloodstream to the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape,” Turnbull says. “And so this stuff infiltrates the online community and expands but with no branding—so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”
The video shows Cambridge Analytica may have violated U.S. election law by coordinating campaign spending with super PACs, which are supposed to operate independently from political campaigns:
In a different meeting, Mr Turnbull described how the company created the “Defeat Crooked Hilary” brand of attack ads, that were funded by the Make America Number 1 super-PAC and watched more than 30 million times during the campaign.
Coordination between an official election campaign and any outside groups is illegal under US election law. Cambridge Analytica deny wrongdoing, insisting a strict firewall separated out their activity and that they were transparent about their work on political campaigns and PACs.
It’s both astonishing and infuriating to watch these posh executives smugly extoll their ability to efficiently ratfuck the American electorate—and all without a trace! That said, Cambridge Analytica’s behavior is par for the course in the type of data privacy fuckery that firms engage in.
“When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the [popular] vote by 3 million votes, but won the Electoral College vote, that’s down to the data and the research,” Alex Tayler, the firm’s chief data officer, tells Channel 4. “You did your rallies in the right locations, you moved more people out in those key swing states on Election Day. That’s how he won the election.”
“He won by 40,000 votes in three states,” Turnbull adds. “The margins were tiny.”