Secret video of Cambridge Analytica’s top executives reveals how the firm covertly, and unethically, influences elections around the world.
An undercover video report on Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics company hired by Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign, was posted by Britain’s Channel 4 News today.
The short documentary catches Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix admitting to manipulating elections around the world through potentially illegal, and inarguably duplicitous, means. His firm was recently discovered by the New York Times and The Guardian to have secretly harvested the information of 50 million Facebook users, and exploiting it to target American voters with political ads.
A Channel 4 News fixer, posing as a wealthy Sri Lankan and potential client, secured hidden camera footage of Nix, Cambridge Analytica Chief Data Officer Alex Tayler, and Cambridge Analytica Managing Director Mark Turnbull during private meetings at hotels around London.
During one meeting, Taylor and Turnbull claim to have swayed political and non-political activities in China, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, Australia, and the volatile reelection campaign of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta last year.
“It has to happen without anyone thinking that’s propaganda,” Turnbull tells the fixer. “Because the moment you think that’s propaganda, the next question is, who’s put that out?”
“So we’re not in the business of fake news. We’re not in the business of lying, making stuff up. And we’re not in the business of entrapment,” Turnbull adds, saying that Cambridge Analytica isn’t the type of firm to hire women to seduce an opponent for blackmail, for example.
But in a separate meeting, involving Nix and Turnbull, Cambridge Analytica is described as exactly that type of firm.
Nix tells the fixer that merely digging up oppositional research about an opponent isn’t enough. He speaks of setting up meetings, and secretly filming them, and “instantly having video evidence of corruption.”
Nix provides several examples of stings that Cambridge Analytica could facilitate, such as the exchange of campaign funding for tracts of land, or sending Ukrainian sex workers to the opponent’s home—”we have lots of history of things,” Nix says.
“I mean, it sounds a dreadful thing to say but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true, as long as they’re believed,” Nix adds.
For someone so versed in blackmailing, Nix seems recklessly ignorant to the possibility that he’s being filmed. And his final admissions are the most incriminating.
Nix speaks of setting up fake IDs, websites, and identities in target countries to gather information and blackmail material. Former Cambridge Analytica employees have admitted to The Guardian of working on tourist visas during Trump’s election campaign. Cambridge Analytica, Nix says, can subcontract—to Israeli spy firms, for example—and operate under different names for extra layers of obfuscation. Turnbull mentions an unnamed Eastern European country where the company “ghosted in,” and then disappeared after the job was done.
Cambridge Analytica has since accused the Channel 4 News documentary of containing false claims and inaccuracies, calling it a “honey trap.”