I watched a really interesting documentary at the weekend on Netflicks, to be honest I don’t normally bother delving into it, but I just fancied something a bit different, and I came across a documentary about Cambridge Analytica. I was aware of who they were and how they implicated in the USA elections along with the Leave the EU campaign, and many others elections around the world. To be honest it was fascinating stuff, and showed how they used Facebook and all the thousands of data points that are part of every individual to build up profiles of people that they might be able to persuade to vote for their candidate. In this case of course President Trump, and the EU leavers.
Two former employees had turned whistle blower and formal investigations were conducted both in the USA and UK by the respective governments, with key people being cross examined by senior politicians. It was fascinating and frankly if you accept it at face value worrying. The premise is that they build up profiles of literally millions of people and then all their friends and then they target those that they call the “persuadables”. Once identified they then start a very clever but subtle campaign of fake news to those individuals to try and persuade them to vote for whoever is paying them. They claimed that they did not use Facebook data, but they did. Mark Zuckerburg under oath claimed that they did not use the FB data but they did. Quite honestly it was alarming at how much data they had on everybody. So, one chap asked Cambridge under the freedom of information act to tell him what data they had on him. Cambridge refused and were consequently criminally convicted in a UK court.
What was remarkable was just how few people were involved and how much damage they had done. For all the protestations of innocence a damning channel 4 undercover documentary exposed the real truth of the dirty tactics that they employed. The film showed the CEO Alexander Nik coming clean about just what they had been up to in the USA elections, especially for President Trump. I have never been one for conspiracy theories but this was compelling and very well made documentary that interviewed key players right at the heart of it all. And it made me think about just how exactly a social media industry that was designed to bring the world together via the web, and had turned into a cynical tool of mass deception to dramatically turn the world order on its head. And the enormous irony, that was not lost on me was that Netflick, part of that machine had suggested the programme to me, and I watched it, hook, line and sinker. I’m off a Blue Nun now and a lie down in a darkened room.