A report from Channel 4 News includes undercover video showing officers of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm used by the Trump campaign, talking about dirty political tricks they orchestrate on behalf of their clients.
Here’s what the undercover video showed
Channel Four investigators sent what appeared to be a political agent from Sri Lanka and his assistant to meet with Cambridge Analytica executives, but they were secretly recording. They told them were seeking help in influencing political campaigns in Sri Lanka, and met with them in several meetings at hotels in London.
“If you’re collecting data on people and you’re profiling them,” said Alex Taylor, the chief data officer, “that gives you more insight that you can use to know how to segment the population, to give them messaging about issues that they care about, and language and imagery that they’re likely to engage with. And we use that in America, and we use that in Africa, that’s what we do as a company.”
“We’ve done it Mexico, we’ve done it in Malaysia,” added Mark Turnbull, managing director. “We’re not moving into Brazil.”
When asked about intelligence gathering, Turnbull responded that they were very willing to investigate political opponents.
“We have relationships and partnerships with specialist organizations that do that kind of, do that kind of work. You Know who the opposition is, you know their secrets. You know their tactics.”
Emotion and fear
In another meeting two weeks later, Turnbull explained how Cambridge would manipulate underlying fears to move the emotions of their target voters.
“The two fundamental human drivers when it comes to taking information onboard effectively are hopes and fears and many of those are unspoken and even unconscious,” he said. “You didn’t know that was a fear until you saw something that just evoked that reaction from you.”
“And our job is to get, it to drop the bucket further down the well than anybody else,” he added, “to understand, what are those really deep-seated underlying fears, concerns.
“It’s no good fighting an election campaign on the facts, because actually it’s all about emotion,” he concluded.
The executives explained how they used their methods to influence an election in Kenya.
Who put out that propaganda?
In another secretly recorded meeting, Turnbull described how the company used other organizations to investigate opponents and drop their “secrets” on the internet to damaging effect.
“There are various intelligence-gathering organizations that operate very discreetly,” Turnbull said, “to find information like that. I know people who used to work for [British intelligence services] MI-5, MI-6, they now work for these private organizations. They will find all the skeletons in his closet, quietly, discreetly, and give you a report.”
“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?” he explained. “So we have to be very subtle.”
They went on to discuss how Cambridge Analytica can operate under a different name, a different entity, in order to escape detection of their involvement.
That crosses a line
In this meeting, Turnbull told the Channel Four agent that they would not be propagating fake news, or setting up traps for politicians.
“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,” he said. “So we wouldn’t, we wouldn’t send a pretty girl out to seduce a politician and then film them in their bedroom and then release the film.”
“There are companies that do this, but to me that crosses a line,” he claimed.
However, in a further meeting, they appeared to affirm that they would be very willing to do exactly such things.
The final sales pitch
In the last meeting, the investigation’s agents met with Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix.
“We are not only the largest and most significant political consultancy in the world,” said Nix on the recording, “but we have the most established track record. We’re used to operating through different vehicles, in the shadows, and I look forward to building a very long-term and secretive relationship with you.”
In the last meeting, Turnbull and Nix met with the supposed Sri Lankan agent.
“And what we want to know is what is the expertise of the deep digging that you can do to make sure that the people know the true identity and secrets of these people,” the agent asked.
“Oh, we do a lot more than that,” Nix responded. “I mean deep digging is interesting, but you know equally effective can be just to go and speak to the incumbents and offer them a deal that’s too good to be true, and make sure that’s video recorded you know. These sorts of tactics are very effective. Instantly having video evidence of corruption, putting it on the internet, these sorts of things.”
“We have lots of history of things”
“And the operative you will use for this is who?” the agent asked.
“Well someone known to us,” Nix said.
“OK, so it is somebody, you won’t use a Sri Lankan person?” the agent asked.
“No, no, we’ll have a wealthy developer come in,” Nix explained, “somebody posing as a wealthy developer. They will 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 on cameras. We’ll blank out the face of our guy, and then post it on the internet.”
“So on Facebook or YouTube or something like this?” the agent asked.
“Send some girls around to the candidate’s house,” Nix added. “We have lots of history of things.”
“For example you’re saying when you’re using the girls to introduce to the local fellow,” the agent asked, “and you’re using the girls for this, like the seduction, they’re not local girls, not Sri Lankan girls?”
“I wouldn’t have thought so no, we’ll bring some,” Nix responded, “I mean, that was just an idea. Just saying we could bring some Ukrainians in on holiday with us, you know. You know what I’m saying.”
“They are very beautiful,” said the agent, “Ukrainian girls.”
“They are very beautiful,” Nix agreed, “I find that works very well.”
“Please don’t pay too much attention to what I’m saying because I’m just giving you examples of what can be done and what, what has been done,” Nix said.
“I mean,” Nix explains further on in the conversation, “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.”
Fake IDs and fake websites
Later on, Nix says that they can set up fake IDs and fake websites to hide their actions. “We can go in as students doing research projects,” he explained, “attached to the university, we can be tourists, there’s so many options.”
“I’ve got a lot of experience in this,” he added.
Here’s the investigatory video from Channel 4 News:
Here’s Cambridge Analytica’s statement on the allegations
“We entirely refute any allegation that Cambridge Analytica or any of its affiliates use entrapment, bribes, or so-called “honey-traps” for any purpose whatsoever,” a statement read from the company.
“We routinely undertake conversations with prospective clients to try to tease out any unethical or illegal intentions,” the statement continued. “Cambridge Analytica does not untrue material for any purpose.”
Channel Four plans to reveal on Tuesday another part of their investigation into Cambridge Analytica having to do with their efforts in the United States.
Cambridge Analytica was banned from Facebook Friday after they discovered that the company reportedly still retained data that they had gathered from the social media platform, but had been ordered to destroy.