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Laurie Clarke


How the Cambridge Analytica scandal unravelled

The notion that the contentious British firm played a pivotal role in the Trump and Brexit votes has become ever harder to maintain.

“It’s like a boomerang. You send your data out, it gets analysed, and it comes back at you as targeted messaging to change your behaviour.”

Brittany Kaiser’s words feature in The Great Hack, a documentary chronicling one of the most explosive scandals to erupt in the past five years: Cambridge Analytica (CA).

CA was alleged to have mined Facebook data from millions of people worldwide. The data was detailed enough for CA to create complex psychographic profiles of its subjects, to deliver pinpointed adverts to them and propel them into new behaviour patterns. The CA whistleblower Christopher Wylie described it as “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mind-fuck tool”.

This is the introduction to a long read that appears on the New Statesman website. Read the full article here

“If we targeted enough persuadable people in the right precincts, then those states would turn red instead of blue,” said Kaiser, the former business development director for CA. “We bombarded them through blogs, websites, articles, videos on every platform you can imagine until they saw the world the way we wanted them to – until they voted for our candidate.”

The story had a seismic effect on political discourse. Two of the most unpredictable events in the recent political past – Donald Trump winning the US presidency and Brexit – were pinned on the company. The idea that the electoral system was undermined by CA’s underhand tactics was trumpeted by many factions of the media and political establishment. The argument that the operation amounted to a rupture in the fabric of democracy proliferated.

Three years since the scandal began to emerge, such ideas endure. CA is still thought by many to have played a key role in influencing both the Trump and Brexit votes. However, that position has become harder to maintain.​

Continue reading this story on the New Statesman website