Cambridge Analytica II

Cambridge Analytica is about to declare bankruptcy and close its operations in an attempt to silence the outrage and avoid justice. The company argued that its motives for its closure were because of “numerous unfounded accusations,” and that “the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers. The firm pointed out that it had been “vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising, both in the political and commercial arenas.” Skeptics argue that they hide a legacy of fake news and voter manipulation in ways never seen before. In a classic move, Cambridge Analytica wants to return now as Emerdata: it’s the same trickery, but under another name. We know now from statements by Mark Zuckerberg before Congress that the British consulting firm accessed information from 87 million users, not the 50 million it reported initially. Cambridge Analytica defined itself as “the power of big data and psychographic analysis in the electoral process.” By virtue of this definition, it used data analysis of social media in order to manipulate the human perspective of people on certain topics.

Knowing the fears, needs, emotions and feelings of the voters in an individual and precise way (as part of the data obtained by Facebook and by the development of powerful algorithms), Cambridge Analytica was able to manipulate the people who were undecided and that were unhappy with the system, in the states with high unemployment, a factor caused by the advancement of technology and the consequent automation of processes, as well as by the effects of globalization (closure of factories in the U.S. and their relocation to China.) These unemployed people blame Washington for not doing anything for them, and their anger was easy prey for campaigns of misinformation based on fake news and conspiracy theories, which were then reproduced by the Republican candidate and his campaign leadership. It gave them an apparent truthfulness that confirmed what these people received as a direct message on Facebook. It was said, for example, that Hillary Clinton had a pizzeria that was a front for a child trafficking business. Or that Barack Obama had created a secret army that would raid citizens’ homes and confiscate their firearms. These messages were sent via ProtonMail, technology that sends encrypted messages that are then erased, leaving no trail. The fact is that big data can make any candidate a winner because it is a tailored campaign, with messages that are individually designed, which allows them to be better received.

Cambridge Analytica, during the 2016 presidential campaign, managed to form an alliance with the brother of current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in order to obtain data from people on Social Security, as well as with a Russian bank that possessed a large database of contributors to that system. These contacts were promoted by Steve Bannon along with the inner circle of the Trump family. This appropriation of data is illegal. Hence, we have the investigation conducted by the special counsel and the lawsuit by the Democratic Party. Despite the numerous investigations involving Cambridge Analytica in the United States, accusations by one of their executives, Christopher Wylie, formed the first major blow against the consulting firm. In effect, this person was the one who designed the cyberwar arsenal of the new American ultraright, which then found disenchantment and a toxic atmosphere created by the work of Alexander Nix and Bannon. Wylie created an enormous database of citizens, in part collected illegally, which created a serious risk by erasing the borders between domestic surveillance and conventional market research. The four-month news investigation by Channel 4 News was another blow to Cambridge Analytica. Nix, believing that he was helping a potential client from Sri Lanka, went into great detail on the dirty war and the manipulation of voters though deception and lies. Nix was recorded on tape and in video and it cost him his job. The entire debacle would soon take place.

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