Cambridge Analytica execs secretly filmed talking about bribes, fake IDs, sex workers and voter manipulation
The U.K.’s Channel 4 television station broadcast a video on Monday showing executives at data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica talking about using sex workers, bribes and other nefarious traps to swing the outcome of elections.
The video was the result of a four-month investigation by Channel 4’s undercover team into a company that prides itself on helping Donald Trump rise to the presidency and also on the outcome of the Brexit referendum vote.
The executives while being secretly filmed bragged about having spy contacts at the U.K. intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6, after which the same executive talked about how information could be put into “the bloodstream of the internet” and then they just “watch it grow.”
Cambridge Analytics Chief Executive Alexander Nix told the undercover team that the company was running secret campaigns all over the world, which according to Channel 4 involved “operating through a web of shadowy front companies, or by using subcontractors.” The modus operandi might also include sending beautiful young women around to political candidates’ houses – Nix said Ukrainians worked well – to extract information from the politicians.
In another gambit, Nix talked about bribing the candidates: “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the internet.”
Channel 4 said the meetings took place at a number of London hotels between November 2017 and January 2018. The meetings happened under the pretext that a wealthy man wanted to have certain political candidates elected in Sri Lanka.
The meetings also included Mark Turnbull, the managing director of CA Political Global, and Alex Tayler, the company’s chief data officer. Turnbull explained how he could collect damaging material on opponents, which would then be pushed discreetly through the internet.
We “watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again,” he said. “Like a remote control. It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘That’s propaganda,’ because the moment you think, ‘That’s propaganda,’ the next question is, ‘Who’s put that out?’”
They work “in the shadows,” the reporters heard, sometimes creating fake companies, using fake ID or even pretending to be tourists or students working on projects. The execs said that this has already happened in “200 elections across the world, including Nigeria, Kenya, the Czech Republic, India and Argentina.”
None of the conversations entered the topic of Donald Trump, whose campaign paid $6 million to Cambridge Analytica, according to The Washington Times.
On Sunday, it was revealed that that Cambridge Analytica and its parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories had harvested about 50 million Facebook Inc. profiles to manipulate political opinions in the U.S. and the U.K. This soon led to U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham to seek a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s offices and servers for evidence of illegal activity. Facebook auditors also paid the office a visit on Monday night, but the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office told them they had to get out.
BREAKING: Facebook WAS inside Cambridge Analytica’s office but have now “stood down” following dramatic intervention by UK Information Commissioner’s Office..
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) March 19, 2018
At around the same time, Facebook hired a digital forensics firm to audit the firm. “We remain committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information,” said Facebook in a statement.
After the release of the Channel 4 News video, a spokesperson for Cambridge Analytica refuted the allegations. The company said it does not “use entrapment, bribes, or so-called ‘honey-traps’ for any purpose whatsoever…. We routinely undertake conversations with prospective clients to try to tease out any unethical or illegal intentions.”
Channel 4 will broadcast a show about Cambridge Analytica’s work in the U.S. Tuesday morning.
Image: Channel4 via YouTube
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