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Cambridge Analytica & The Facebook-Big Data Conspiracy

By Andrew Korybko | Oriental Review | March 26, 2108

The Guardian published an exposé about how Cambridge Analytica allegedly mastered the use of social media data to give the Brexit and Trump campaigns a crucial edge in 2016.

The UK news outlet released an extensive story about Christopher Wylie, the Canadian genius behind the Cambridge Analytica data firm that was reportedly the secret weapon behind these two campaigns’ electoral successes. It’s long been speculated that the company used people’s Facebook information to enhance their electioneering efforts, but now its founder has come forward and purportedly claims to have documents proving that this was the case. What’s more, he says that his company was created by SCL Elections, a subsidiarity of the SCL Group that he told a reporter is supposedly known for its expertise in conducting “cyberwarfare for elections”. The SCL umbrella has military contracts alongside civilian ones, therefore making it an extension of the “deep state” and adding credence to the claims that Cambridge Analytica functioned as an indispensable component behind Brexit and Trump’s victories.

The Guardian goes on to explain how users’ Facebook data was mined through apps, quizzes, and “seeders”, and that people’s personality traits were paired with their “likes” and other account activity to build detailed profiles of millions of people, which the outlet and its interviewee suggest might have been illegal. In their defense, Cambridge Analytica always asserted under pressure that this isn’t the case, and has sometimes said that it was conducting academic research. This “plausibly deniable” stance shows just how blurred the line is becoming between academia, marketing, politics, and intelligence, but to be fair, this has been a steadily growing problem for years already and Cambridge Analytica isn’t the first company to be implicated with accusations of legal and ethical impropriety in this field. The only thing that they’re really “guilty” of is creatively identifying and tapping into the anti-systemic zeitgeist of the British and American societies.

The argument can be made that it was “wrong” for them to procure people’s private Facebook data, but that doesn’t change the fact that the results were used for very effective purposes in pushing forth what the masses apparently wanted, which is Brexit and Trump. The Mainstream Media was, and still is, completely taken aback by what happened because they convinced themselves of the inevitability of both of those campaigns’ defeats, arrogantly refusing to recognize and accept the obvious signs that people were clamoring for change. All that Cambridge Analytica did was process preexisting data, objectively assess its results, and pass along the findings to its clients so that they can hone their messages, though there are legitimate fears that data brokers such as this one might eventually become too powerful if they independently leverage this information for their own ends one day.

This whole affair goes to show the growing influence that technology companies are having in today’s post-modern society, but the only reason why it’s coming under the Mainstream Media’s microscope is because it was one of the reasons why the “wrong side” won. That’s why The Guardian also goes on a bizarre tangent in implying that there might have been a Russian government connection to Cambridge Analytica, all in order to pander to the Russiagate mob and their “deep state” controllers. That aside, the exposé is informative because it lays bare the truth of what’s happening behind the scenes – and literally, behind computer and phone screens – and explains how people’s private preferences are being vacuumed up and analyzed in creating a dizzying array of psychological profiles for political purposes.

March 26, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook Scandal Blows Away ‘Russiagate’

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Startegic Culture Foundation | 23.03.2018

Now, at last, a real “election influence” scandal – and, laughably, it’s got nothing to do with Russia. The protagonists are none other than the “all-American” US social media giant Facebook and a British data consultancy firm with the academic-sounding name Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is being called upon by British and European parliamentarians to explain his company’s role in a data-mining scandal in which up to 50 million users of the social media platform appear to have had their private information exploited for electioneering purposes.

Exploited, that is, without their consent or knowledge. Facebook is being investigated by US federal authorities for alleged breach of privacy and, possibly, electoral laws. Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica looks less an academic outfit and more like a cheap marketing scam.

Zuckerberg has professed “shock” that his company may have unwittingly been involved in betraying the privacy of its users. Some two billion people worldwide are estimated to use the social media networking site to share personal data, photos, family news and so on, with “friends”.

Now it transpires that at least one firm, London-based Cambridge Analytica, ran a profitable business by harvesting the publicly available data on Facebook for electioneering purposes for which it was contracted to do. The harvested information was then used to help target election campaigning.

Cambridge Analytica was reportedly contracted by the Trump campaign for the 2016 presidential election. It was also used during the Brexit referendum campaign in 2016 when Britons voted to leave the European Union.

This week the British news outlet Channel 4 broadcast a stunning investigation in which chief executives at Cambridge Analytica were filmed secretly boasting about how their firm helped win the US presidential election for Donald Trump.

More criminally, the data company boss, Alexander Nix, also revealed that they were prepared to gather information which could be used for blackmailing and bribing politicians, including with the use of online sex traps.

The repercussions from the scandal have been torrid. Following the Channel 4 broadcast, Cambridge Analytica has suspended its chief executive pending further investigation. British authorities have sought a warrant to search the company’s computer servers.

Moreover, Zuckerberg’s Facebook has seen $50 billion wiped of its stock value in a matter of days. What is at issue is the loss of confidence among its ordinary citizen-users about how their personal data is vulnerable to third party exploitation without their consent.

Cambridge Analytica is just the tip of an iceberg. The issue has raised concerns that other third parties, including criminal identity-theft gangs, are also mining Facebook as a mammoth marketing resource. A resource that is free to exploit because of the way that ordinary users willingly publish their personal profiles.

The open, seemingly innocent nature of Facebook connecting millions of people – a “place where friends meet” as its advertising jingle goes – could turn out to be an ethical nightmare over privacy abuse.

Other social media companies like Amazon, Google, WhatsApp and Twitter are reportedly apprehensive about the consequences of widespread loss of confidence among consumers in privacy security. One of the biggest economic growth areas over the past decade – social media – could turn out to be another digital bubble that bursts spectacularly due to the latest Facebook scandal.

But one other, perhaps more, significant fallout from the scandal is the realistic perspective it provides on the so-called “Russiagate” debacle.

For well over a year now, the US and European corporate news media have been peddling claims about how Russian state agents allegedly “interfered” in several national elections.

The Russian authorities have consistently rejected the alleged “influence campaigns” as nothing but a fabrication to slander Russia. Moscow has repeatedly asked for evidence to verify the relentless claims – and none has been presented.

The US congress has carried out two probes into “Russiagate” without much to show for their laborious endeavors. A special counsel headed up by former FBI chief Robert Mueller has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to produce a flimsy indictment list of 19 Russian individuals who are said to have run influence campaigns out of a nondescript “troll farm” in St Petersburg.

It still remains unclear and unconvincing how, or if, the supposed Russian hackers were linked to the Russian state, and how they had any impact on the voting intentions of millions of Americans.

Alternatively, there is plausible reason to believe that the so-called Russian troll farm in St Petersburg, the Internet Research Agency, may have been nothing other than a dingy marketing vehicle, trying to use the internet like thousands of other firms around the world hustling for advertising business. Firms like Cambridge Analytica.

The whole Russiagate affair has been a storm in a teacup, and Mueller seems to be desperate to produce some, indeed any, result for his inquisitorial extravaganza.

The amazing thing to behold is how the alleged Russian “influence campaign” narrative has become an accepted truth, propagated and repeated by Western governments and media without question.

Pentagon defense strategy papers, European Union policy documents, NATO military planning, among others, have all cited alleged “Russian interference” in American and European elections as “evidence” of Moscow’s “malign” geopolitical agenda.

The purported Russiagate allegations have led to a grave deepening of Cold War tensions between Western states and Russia to the point where an all-out war is at risk of breaking out.

Last week, the Trump administration slapped more sanctions on Russian individuals and state security services for “election meddling”.

No proof or plausible explanation has ever been provided to substantiate the allegations of a Russian state “influence campaign’. The concept largely revolves around innuendo and a deplorable prejudice against Russia based on irrational Cold War-style Russophobia.

However, one possible beneficial outcome from the latest revelations of an actual worldwide Facebook election-influence campaign, driven by an ever-so British data consultancy, is that the scandal puts the claims against Russia into stark, corrective perspective.

A perspective which shows that the heap of official Western claims against Russia of “influencing elections” is in actual fact negligible if not wholly ridiculous.

It’s a mountain versus a hill of beans. A tornado versus a storm in a teacup. Time to get real on how Western citizens are being really manipulated by their own consumer-capitalist cultures.

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

The Deep State Breaks Surface

By Craig Murray | March 22, 2018

I confess I found it difficult to get worked up about the Cambridge Analytica affair. My reactions was “What awful people. But surely everybody realises that is what Facebook does?”. It seemed to me hardly news, on top of which the most likely outcome is that it will be used as yet another excuse to introduce government controls on the internet and clamp down on dissenting views like those on this website, where 85% of all traffic comes through Facebook or Twitter.

But two nights ago my interest was piqued when, at the height of Cambridge Analytica’s domination of the news cycle, the BBC gave it considerably less airtime than the alcohol abuse problems of someone named Ant. The evening before, the BBC had on Newsnight given the CEO of Cambridge Analytica the most softball interview imaginable. If the BBC is obviously downplaying something, it is usually defending a deep British Establishment interest.

It took me a minute to find out that Cambridge Analytica is owned by a British company, SCL Ltd, which in effect does exactly the same activities in the UK that Cambridge Analytica was undertaking in the US. I then looked up SCL on Bloomberg.

The name which jumped out at me of course was Lord Ivar Mountbatten, direct descendant of Queen Victoria and scion of the family closest friends with that of the UK’s unelected monarch. The only person listed by Companies House as having “significant control” – ie over 25% of the shares – is Roger Gabb, the wine merchant known for large donations to the Tory Party. I have now spoken to people who know him fairly well who, I must note in fairness, universally say he is a kind and very bright man, but with no technical input in the kind of work performed by SCL/Cambridge Analytica.

SCL is as Establishment as a company can get. The most worrying aspect of this is that SCL is paid by the British government to manipulate public opinion particularly in the fields of “Security” and “Defence”, and still more worryingly SCL – this group of ultra Tory money men seeking to refine government propaganda at the expense of you, the taxpayer – is cleared by the MOD to access classified government information.

I then did a news search on google for “Mountbatten” and “SCL” and it brought up zero results from corporate and state media. I then did a wider search not just of news sites, and found this excellent article from Liam O’Hare on Bella Caledonia. It said everything I had been planning to write, and probably says it better. Please do read it. Liam has actually done this to me before, getting there first. I suspect we may be the same person. Come to think of it, I have never seen a photo of us together.

PS Everyone of my generation will remember this joke. “What’s white and flies across the sea at 300mph?” We had a more robust attitude to free speech in the 70’s, and the maudlin deference to the “Royal family” had much less hold on the population.

March 22, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | 3 Comments

Face it: Cambridge Analytica story proves Facebook doesn’t give a toss about privacy or democracy

By Danielle Ryan | RT | March 20, 2018

Mainstream media have obsessed over Russia’s alleged use of Facebook to swing the 2016 US election. In reality, it was actually a shady British data-mining firm that was running pro-Trump Facebook propaganda campaigns

Irony doesn’t feel like strong enough a word.

Which is worse: Russia allegedly buying a few hundred Facebook ads, with the goal of ‘sowing unrest’ in the United States, by exploiting already emotional and divisive issues like gun control and race relations, or Facebook allowing a dodgy British company to mine the data of millions of its users, without the users’ explicit knowledge or consent, and then using that data for political purposes?

If you need a recap: British firm Cambridge Analytica (CA), working with the Trump campaign, harvested private information from 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge — and then used that information in an attempt to influence the election in Trump’s favor. CA was reportedly paid $5 million by the Trump campaign for their efforts. Oh, and former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon used to head the company.

So now we find out, after all the hand-wringing about how Russia elected Trump through its evil social media manipulations, that there were, in fact, other, perhaps for more influential, forces at play.

“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on,” said CA whistleblower Christopher Wylie.

There are so many levels of irony to this story, it’s hard to know where to begin.

But let’s start with this: At the same time that Cambridge Analytica was mining Facebook data to help Trump, top executives at Facebook were actively working to help Trump opponent Hillary Clinton. Leaked emails between Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta revealed that Facebook provided research to Clinton in 2015. According to the emails, Sandberg “badly” wanted Clinton to win and she met privately with the candidate on multiple occasions.

Here’s where it gets really interesting, though. Cambridge Analytica doesn’t discriminate. After Trump’s election, the data firm’s parent company SCL Group won a contract from the US State Department to — wait for it — help combat propaganda on Facebook.

You know, it’s almost like Cambridge Analytica and Facebook each are companies primarily interested in money and which act with no moral qualms whatsoever. One can even imagine, if they try hard enough, that while Facebook executives personally seem to prefer Democrats, the company would help anyone, so long as a big fat check was involved.

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, thanks to Wylie, Facebook has tried to play the victim — and quite successfully, too, given that most of the focus has been on CA and its dirty tricks and not the fact that it is a giant data company like Facebook that allows it to happen in the first place.

Facebook claims that it was misled by CA and acted to suspend the firm from its platform. But Facebook is no victim. The social media giant still insists CA’s use of the data from 50 million of its users’ accounts was not a data breach because, somewhere within the tangle of Facebook’s intentionally complicated privacy settings, users had technically consented to having their data mined.

Don’t let Facebook’s faux outrage at CA’s behavior fool you. In the midst of all this drama, a former high-level staffer on Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign has come out and admitted that Facebook allowed the Obama campaign to do much the same thing to help him, that Cambridge Analytica did to help Trump four years later.

Carol Davidsen wrote on Twitter that Facebook staff were very open and candid with the Obama campaign, writing that “they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side”.

Those activities included “suck[ing] out the entire social graph” — in other words an individual user’s entire network of Facebook friends — in an effort to target more potential voters through friends lists.

“The privacy policies at that time on Facebook were – if they opted in, they could tell us who all their friends were. So, they told us who all their friends were. We were actually able to ingest the entire social network of the US that’s on Facebook, which is most people,” Davidsen wrote.

So who is really more to blame here? A company like Cambridge Analytica, that uses political bribes and honey traps to discredit people — or a social media giant that sells the personal data of its users to the highest bidder? Or… Russia?

I’m inclined to agree with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who wrote on Twitter: “Facebook makes their money by exploiting and selling intimate details about the private lives of millions, far beyond the scant details you voluntarily post. They are not victims. They are accomplices.”

Speaking of whistleblowers, it’s been interesting to see how the media has treated the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower vs. how they treat whistleblowers like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning — and Snowden himself. When the whistleblower reveals information that suits the prevailing narrative, they are lauded as brave heroes and truth seekers. When they reveal something that doesn’t quite fit the story they are promoting, whistleblowers suddenly become abominable traitors deserving of no mercy.

Now comes the question of what should be done about all this sneaky business on Facebook. Luckily, I have a couple of suggestions.

First and foremost, Washington should immediately sanction the UK over the now-blatant attempts of a British company to meddle in and influence the American presidential election. I mean, it only seems fair. All sorts of accusations should be immediately levelled at the British government. Most importantly, absolutely no effort should be made to separate Cambridge Analytica from either Downing Street or the British public in general.

Second, the media should spend weeks, if not months, analyzing the motives of dodgy British political operatives and their efforts to secure a Trump victory. Journalists should get to work whipping up massive anti-British fervor and use any opportunity they can to get “the British” into their headlines about evil online influence campaigns.

In all honesty, there really is not much difference between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. They both use our data for political and financial purposes — Facebook just seems to do it all on a far wider and more consistent basis.

It was only in January that Facebook admitted in a series of official blog posts, that it had a “moral duty” to understand how its technology was being used and to figure out “what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible.” In response to allegations of Russian meddling and ‘fake news’ on the platform, Facebook said it was taking “steps in partnership with third-party fact checkers to rank these stories lower”.

That’s right: Employing unidentified “fact checkers” was supposed to help solve the fake news problem, while companies like Cambridge Analytica were out there hoovering up data from millions of users without their knowledge and using it for political propaganda purposes. But Facebook, we’re supposed to believe, knew nothing about that.

Facebook doesn’t really care a toss about your privacy or your democracy — and if this Cambridge Analytica scandal doesn’t make that clear, nothing will.

Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance journalist. Having lived and worked in the US, Germany and Russia, she is currently based in Budapest, Hungary. Her work has been featured by Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, Russia Direct, teleSUR, The BRICS Post and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ, check out her Facebook page, or visit her website: danielle-ryan.com

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Tories held talks with Cambridge Analytica in 2016 – report

March 21, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment