Execs filmed saying Cambridge Analytica influenced 200 elections, including in India
The company at the centre of the Facebook data breach boasted of using honey traps, fake news campaigns and operations with former spies to swing elections around the world, according to an investigation by Britain’s Channel 4 News.
Executives from Cambridge Analytica (CA) spoke to undercover reporters from the channel about the methods used by the firm to help clients, which included hiring sex workers to seduce rival candidates and entrapping them in fake bribery stings.
The executives, who served as US President Donald Trump’s election consultants were also secretly filmed talking about using bribes, former spies from the UK and Israel, and fake IDs. They boasted CA and its parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories had worked in more than 200 elections around the world, including India, Nigeria, Kenya, the Czech Republic and Argentina.
CA’s chief executive Alexander Nix said the firm secretly campaigns in elections around the world, including operations through a web of shadowy front companies or sub-contractors, Channel 4 reported.
In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, Nix said the firm could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.
In another conversation, he said: “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.”
The admissions were filmed during a series of meetings at London hotels between November 2017 and January 2018. A reporter for Channel 4 posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.
Nix told the reporter CA is “used to operating through different vehicles, in the shadows, and I look forward to building a very long-term and secretive relationship with you”.
Besides Nix, Mark Turnbull, the managing director of CA Political Global, and chief data officer Alex Tayler participated in the meetings.
Turnbull described how CA can discreetly push damaging material on political opponents on to social media and the internet. He said that “we just put information into the bloodstream of the internet, and then…watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again… like a remote control. It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘that’s propaganda’…”
Mr Nix said many CA clients didn’t want to be seen working with a foreign company and the firm can “set up fake IDs and websites, we can be students doing research projects attached to a university, we can be tourists, there’s so many options we can look at.”
CA is at the centre of a scandal over its role in harvesting more than 50 million Facebook profiles for the 2016 US presidential election - one of the social media giant’s biggest data breaches.
Offering bribes to officials is an offence under the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. CA operates in the UK and is registered in the US.
A CA spokesman refuted allegations that the firm or its affiliates used “entrapment, bribes or so-called ‘honey-traps’ for any purpose”.