Confused about what’s happening with Cambridge Analytica? The data analysis and research firm that allegedly got way too close to Facebook’s user data? And which then employed it to help Trump into office?
Well, sorry, but it is about to get even worse. A British TV channel, Channel 4 News, has just announced that it made video and audio recordings of Alexander Nix, the company’s CEO, bragging about using prostitutes, money, bribes, and smear campaigns to gain influence for its clients around the world.
According to Channel 4, it made the recordings as part of an undercover sting operation in which its reporter approached Cambridge Analytica in the guise of a “fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.”
Allegedly, Nix and his colleagues were happy to oblige. In the recordings, they appear to say that they could manufacture extremely damaging stories about the “Sri Lankan” candidates’ rivals and have them spread broadly by social media.
The picture that Channel 4 presents of Cambridge Analytica is that of a wealthy and powerful international organization, almost like a private intelligence agency, that offers its services to all comers with sufficiently deep pockets. For example, Channel 4 says that at one point in the interaction Nix told its so-called fixer, “…Many of our clients don’t want to be seen to be working with a foreign company… so often we set up, if we are working then we 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. I have lots of experience in this.”
Naturally, Cambridge Analytica has stoutly denied that its CEO said any such thing, or, that if he did say something like it, then it was only to test “prospective clients” to see if they had “any unethical or illegal intentions…”
Who’s telling the truth? That’s not clear, yet. But it is very hard not to watch the video of Nix and not come away profoundly disturbed. (See the embedded player below.)