cadwalladr goes to steele for comment on cambridge analytica

Fresh Cambridge Analytica leak shows global manipulation is out of control
Carole Cadwalladr, Nazi Groon, Jan 5 2020

An explosive leak of tens of thousands of documents from the defunct data firm Cambridge Analytica is set to expose the inner workings of the company that collapsed after the Observer revealed it had misappropriated 87 million Facebook profiles. More than 100,000 documents relating to work in 68 countries that will lay bare the global infrastructure of an operation used to manipulate voters on “an industrial scale” are set to be released over the next months. It comes as Christopher Steele, the ex-head of MI6’s Russia desk and the intelligence expert behind the so-called “Steele dossier” into Trump’s relationship with Russia author of the notorious and absurd Pissgate Dossier, said that while the company had closed down, the failure to properly punish bad actors meant that the prospects for manipulation of the US election this year were even worse. The release of documents began on New Year’s Day on an anonymous Twitter account, @HindsightFiles, with links to material on elections in Malaysia, Kenya and Brazil. The documents were revealed to have come from Brittany Kaiser, an ex-Cambridge Analytica employee turned whistleblower, and to be the same ones subpoenaed by the Mueller enquiry. Kaiser decided to go public after last month’s election in Britain. She said:

It’s so abundantly clear our electoral systems are wide open to abuse. I’m very fearful about what is going to happen in the Pindo election later this year, and I think one of the few ways of protecting ourselves is to get as much information out there as possible.

The documents were retrieved from her email accounts and hard drives, and though she handed over some material to parliament in Apr 2018, she said there were thousands and thousands more pages which showed a “breadth and depth of the work” that went “way beyond what people think they know about ‘the Cambridge Analytica scandal.’” Steele made a rare public intervention to comment on the leaks. He said:

I don’t know what’s in these leaks, but the context couldn’t be more important because on our current trajectory these problems are likely to get worse, not better, and with crucial 2020 elections in Pindostan and elsewhere approaching, this is a very scary prospect. Something radical needs to be done about it, and fast. If we fail to catch and punish those practising social and other media manipulation, the result will be that while CA may have been exposed and eventually shut down, other, even more sophisticated actors will have been emboldened to interfere in our elections and sow social divisions.

Kaiser said the Facebook data scandal was part of a much bigger global operation that worked with governments, intelligence agencies, commercial companies and political campaigns to manipulate and influence people, and that raised huge national security implications. The unpublished documents contain material that suggests the firm was working for a political party in Ukraine in 2017 even while under investigation as part of Mueller’s inquiry. Kaiser says:

They describe how the firm helped develop a sophisticated infrastructure of shell companies that were designed to funnel dark money into politics. There are emails between these major Trump donors discussing ways of obscuring the source of their donations through a series of different financial vehicles. These documents expose the entire dark money machinery behind Pindo politics.

The same machinery, she says, was deployed in other countries that Cambridge Analytica worked in, including Britain. Emma Briant, an academic at Bard College New York who has had access to some of the documents for research, said that She said:

What had been revealed so far is just the tip of the iceberg. The documents give us a much clearer idea of what actually happened in the 2016 Pindo presidential election, which has a huge bearing on what will happen in 2020. It’s the same people involved, who we know are building on these same techniques. There’s evidence of really quite disturbing experiments on Pindo voters, manipulating them with fear-based messaging, targeting the most vulnerable, that seems to be continuing. This is an entire global industry that’s out of control, but what this does is lay out what was happening with this one company.

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