Big data or the Russians? British firm may have played key role in Trump’s victory

by WorldTribune Staff, March 18, 2018

The Russians? Please.

A former employee said a British-based data mining firm helped Republicans level the playing field in “digital engagement” with voters by using the Facebook profiles of millions of Americans to build a “full-service propaganda machine” that boosted the Trump campaign in 2016.

The Trump administration and its many pro-Democratic Party detractors have blamed each other’s “collusion” with Russia for the evidence that Moscow interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

Alexander Nix, chief executive of Cambridge Analytica. The firm claimed it developed psychographic profiles that could predict the political leanings of every American adult. / Getty Images

Christopher Wylie told The Guardian that he developed an idea in 2013 that led to the founding of Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that played a key information technology role in Brexit’s “Leave” campaign and the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was on board of Cambridge Analytica which was backed by Robert Mercer.

Wylie describes himself to the Guardian as a “gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating ‘Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindf— tool.”

At the time of Cambridge Analytica’s founding, Wylie was employed by Breitbart boss Bannon.

The Guardian also reported that Robert Mercer, a U.S. hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analytica’s investor.

Related: Forget the Russians: New conspiracy theory ties both Trump and Brexit to billionaire Mercer, June 11, 2017

“The idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology – ‘information operations’ – then turn it on the U.S. electorate,” the Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr said in a March 18 report.

Wylie’s plan, Cadwalladr wrote, was “to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the U.S., and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.”

“We ‘broke’ Facebook,” Wylie said, adding that he he did it on behalf of Bannon.

“I’ll point out that I assumed it was entirely legal and above board,” Wylie told Cadwalladr.

Facebook, which suspended Cambridge Analytica and several individuals while it investigates, denies there was a data breach.

“People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked,” a Facebook statement said.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has asked for emails from Cambridge Analytica as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In an interview with the website Contagious, Cambridge Analytica founder Alexander Nix said the firm was established in order “to address the vacuum in the U.S. Republican political market” that became evident when Mitt Romney was defeated in the 2012 presidential election.

“The Democrats had ostensibly been leading the tech revolution, and data analytics and digital engagement were areas where Republicans had failed to catch up. We saw this as an opportunity,” Nix said.

See the Guardian’s full report here

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