By now we are all aware of Russia’s influence in the 2016 presidential election, especially since it’s been confirmed Russia officially penetrated several states’ voter rolls, and is gearing up to repeat its success this November.
But Russia did not succeed only because it infiltrated the Trump administration and voter rolls. A greater threat is literally right at our fingertips.
Facebook recently handed Congress 3,000 Russian-purchased ads through 470 phony pages and accounts that suggest African American rights groups, like Black Lives Matter, posed a political threat, in an effort to exploit racial divisions during the 2016 presidential campaign season.
A least $100,000 was spent for this purpose, a mere fraction of its political advertising during the 2016 campaign.
Now we learn the web extends even further.
During a Monday interview on TODAY, former employee of the British-based data analytics company Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie, admitted the company colluded with two integral Trump campaign aides during the run up to Donald Trump’s candidacy.
Invoking Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, Wylie said:
“Cambridge Analytica was meeting with Corey Lewandowski in 2015 before Trump had even announced and offering the services that I’m talking about right now.”
Wylie also corroborated what the New York Times reported over the weekend:
“[Cambridge Analytica] harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission…making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history.”
The data Facebook obtained was used to microtarget specific voters who might be persuaded to vote for Trump.
“This data was used to create profiling algorithms that would allow us to explore mental vulnerabilities of people and then map out ways to inject information into different streams or channels of content online so that people started to see things that may or may not be true. This is a company that took fake news to the next level.”
Tracking Facebook users’ responses, Cambridge could advise campaign officials where Trump should eventually visit and the language that would resonate most with those regions’ voters.
“I wouldn’t have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn’t known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine. Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power.”
Interesting, before joining the Trump campaign, Bannon served as Cambridge Analytica’s vice president.
Behind Cambridge Analytica is wealthy Republican donor Robert Mercer whom special counsel Robert Mueller is already investigating for possible connections to Russian interference in the election. The U.K. Parliament is also investigating Cambridge for alleged data privacy violations and illegal dealings with the pro-Brexit campaign.
In an unprecedented move Saturday, Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica for running “a scam and a fraud,” as Facebook Vice President and deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal, described it to the Times. About a reported data breach, he added:
“The claim that this is a data breach is completely false.”
Facebook has now also banned Christopher Wylie.
Today we learn Facebook’s platform operations manager, Sandy Parakilas, warned senior Facebook executives its relaxed approach to data protection would leave it susceptible to a major breach.
“My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data. It has been painful watching because I know that they could have prevented it.”
He stated Facebook had “zero” control over data presented to outside developers like Cambridge Analytica.
“Once the data left Facebook servers there was not any control, and there was no insight into what was going on.”
When he proposed scrutinizing how the data was being used, Parakilas said a Facebook executive advised him against it, warning:
“Do you really want to see what you’ll find?”
How involved Cambridge Analytica’s role was in the controversy is not expected to be fully realized until Mueller completes his investigation.
Image credit: betanews.com