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in the shadows

Cambridge Analytica executives filmed allegedly touting use of bribery, entrapment to swing elections around the world

A new report by Channel 4 News includes undercover footage where employees of the shadowy data firm allegedly discuss the nature of their business.

10 Mark Turnbull (l) and Alexander Nix Screengrab Channel 4 News Screengrab Channel 4 News

A SECRETIVE DATA intelligence firm most commonly associated with Donald Trump’s successful campaign for the US presidency has this evening been the subject of a new report suggesting the firm used ‘dirty tricks’ to swing elections around the globe.

A Channel 4 News undercover report on Cambridge Analytica (CA), the firm currently battling reports that it harvested the private Facebook data of 50 million US voters prior to the 2016 presidential election, saw company executives allegedly saying they could entrap politicians using bribes or compromising situations involving sex workers.

In the investigation, which took place between November 2017 and January of this year, a Channel 4 reporter, posing as a Sri Lankan seeking to influence elections in his own country, met with CA executives including embattled CEO Alexander Nix.

Nix said that the secretive British firm campaigns beneath the radar in election all across the globe, often disguising its presence using front companies or by engaging sub-contractors.

Channel 4 News / YouTube

At one meeting, Nix appears to allude to coercion via damaging association by the use of  call girls saying he could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.

Leverage

The idea of using evidence of accepting bribes as leverage against an adversary is also alluded to by Nix:

“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.”

Managing director of CA, Mark Turnbull, meanwhile describes how the utilisation of damaging material on political opponents is an effective tactic at another meeting:

We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet, and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again… it has to happen without anyone thinking ‘that’s propaganda’.

The report is set to turn an already fraught situation for Cambridge Analytica into a media frenzy, with the firm very much in the public eye since former-employee-turned-whistleblower Christopher Wylie recently went on record for UK newspaper The Observer and described how the company had worked for Trump’s campaign by utilising private Facebook data.

Presidential race

Channel 4′s reporting on the topic is set to continue tomorrow with an in-depth look at CA’s involvement in the 2016 American presidential race.

In the wake of this evening’s programme, Cambridge Analytica released a statement suggesting that the meetings with the company’s executives were examples of them attempting to “tease out any unethical or illegal intentions” on the part of the reporter.

“We use meetings like this to make an informed decision about those whom we should or shouldn’t engage with,” the statement said.

However CEO Alexander Nix acknowledges that on this occasion he misjudged the situation.

Nix himself is then quoted:

“In playing along with this line of conversation,. and partly to spare our ‘client’ from embarrassment, we entertained a series of ludicrous hypothetical scenarios,” he said.

I am aware how this looks, but it is simply not the case.

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