Day 423: Cambridge Analytica

An important part of the Trump-Russia story is coming to light, thanks to a whistleblower.

Christopher Wylie, a data scientist and a prodigal coder, worked for Cambridge Analytica in the run-up to two of the most important events in 2016: Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. He helped design a data scrapping tool that used personal information obtained through technically legal, but extremely unethical, means. This tool was deployed via Facebook and scooped up the personality traits of at least 50 million people.

This company, although it received funding from Robert Mercer, the reclusive billionaire and backer of Trump, function as mercenaries, according to Wylie. He has the documentation to back that claim up as well. Cambridge Analytica as early as 2014, was in contact with Lukoil, a massive Russian oil company about how to target American voters. Now why would a Russian oil company be interested in targeting American voters?

Russian oil companies aren’t the only nefarious actors that Cambridge Analytica has dealt with on a regular basis. Wylie indicated on an interview with NBC News that before Trump had even declared his candidacy, Corey Lewandowski was inquiring about the company’s services.

Fake news had a profound effect on the 2016 election, both in terms of helping Trump and sowing lasting dissension amongst Americans. The platforms that were utilized for this information warfare: Facebook, Twitter, etc, have not taken nearly enough responsibility for their actions in order to mitigate the damage they’ve done and prevent these types of attacks from happening again.

Case in point: one of the psychologists who designed the Cambridge Analytica algorithm is currently on the Facebook payroll, Twitter hasn’t suspended the personal account of Donald Trump despite numerous violations of the terms of service and bots, trolls and white supremacists continue to have a platform on the service.

To the last point: social media regulations do not equal free speech repression. These are private platforms where individuals can be banned, accepted or have their speech regulated at the provider’s leisure. If they want to spout that hateful nonsense, they can take it to a place like Stormfront.

And to the earlier point: If Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and all of the other CEOs of these companies were not interested in using every bit of people’s personal information for profit, then why else would they be so slow to respond? The Facebook business model is essentially an online media company: you can advertise, sell advertisements and market to billions of people around the world. Political messaging is just another part of that saga, so why would they want it to be regulated? Why would they care about their consumers, or the country, when those feelings could stand in the way of billions in cash?

Because it’s the right thing to do. And until that happens, the right thing to do is deleting your accounts until they take further action to improve their business morals.


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