« The Weeds

Cambridge Analytica: Scandal, hype, or both?


Andrew Prokop, senior politics reporter for Vox.com, joins Dara and Matt to break down the scandal that’s rocking the worlds of technology and politics. References: The Jane Mayer piece on the Mercers Dara mentioned A study on Big Five personality attributes and voting behavior SCIENCE! on the Cambridge Analytica model A big five personality test you can do at home  Andrew's Cambridge Analytica explainer Matt's good Facebook take

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
If you listen the weeds, oh, we know you like to stay up to date on things through part, casting that's why you lesson and re now you can stream our punk ass to a bunch. Others like it on spot of ice. It's really easy, is open, avenue, mobile device and desktop you click on the brows channel. Then click on the pod cast section as a winning. It's really great about this is when you use Spotify for Potass, you can stream on your smart speaker at home, as well as on your phone and other types of discharge streaming today to stay up to date on the world's latest news with Spotify. It's not just for music pod cast to it's amazing I planted the Cambridge Analytical, like so many other things in life skins perfectly to Alexander Hamilton, and so both of us have been going around with our heads singing Cambridge, Analytic, DORA poison. My mind
did the low by them to another set of the weeds and Box Pakistan network. I message glaziers here with their land and Andrew Programme, and we wanted to talk today. The some weird stuff happening this morning with the president may be veto bills, but we think that probably won't happen. We wanted to talk about Cambridge Analytica accompany her, that has been, I would say, hovering at the margins of national political attention for a while now, but that recently burst in the centre thanks to a weird guy, with pink hair and some some revelation. about how they were getting their their Facebook user data. Mind you ve heard about this- could use those like like. Where did this company come from s? What is it? Cambridge analytical ok. So the story starts back in the nineteen Ninetys. There is a former british
add man named Nigel Oaks and he started a company called the seal group, strategic communications laboratories, and ass. You did what sounds like pretty standard p. and messaging work. They worked for various countries in scored contracts with governments around the are they they basically claim to be kind of. You know that they they said they knew how to get out a message and to convince people and persuade people of things so You know if you read some: coverage of them at the time they got a contract from the President of Indonesia in that area. one. Ninety nine hundred and ninety the government of Thailand at the time to end it. Pretty funny some of these old stories. What one of them describe how s your group at the time they
would go to these new countries and they would construct these elaborate operation centres. hold them with computers state. They seem to be patterned after the James Bond move. Golden I wear the villain has like this big complex filled with computers, and in fact I see I hired the same company that built that movie set to set up. These sets or operation centres in these other countries and in the car at the time, is kind of making fun of them like it, like it sort of seems like they're, trying to look really really impressive than, and what they actually did is that this like up a little bit on the shadier side of the pr business at one point they made up or they they had a false government document, like a purported, from a document from the government of Indonesia saying that the country would, on a confidential intelligence assessment that the country fall into chaos if their client was not reelected, so they tried to get the indonesian papers to
right up stories on this phony document sort of stuff. That and also more standard like they would just like, read every article in the news in and give a summary ever to their clients. So that's kind of Physic PR, with a little bit of dirty tricks, plus maybe somewhat unusual marketing approach. Yes, yes, and after nine eleven. They got into these sort of firm, anti site, a graphic business like a counter Jihad, basically like they were there they are claiming that they could do more Jane in Middle stir and damn north african country, Is that what we would try to persuade the population not to support radical terror or jihad? Or things like that, so so they would score contracts from certain governments in and damn agencies to do that so, stuff and eventually what was really comes through from this coverage of S. Yo group in the past is
They were really good at convincing. But to write them big checks and retain their services there. That is on nearly one thing- they were very good at what they actually could accomplish with that is, is less clear so fast forward to twenty thirteen. Twenty fourteen as seo, and their british executives are looking to make a big splash in the United States and to move the world's biggest pr mark, yeah move to political, consulting, their and Steve Ban and hears about them, and what their being able to claim to do. At this point: they have even more futuristic sounding pitch. They claim that they can do an entirely new style of political targeted so traditionally, political targeting in campaigns relies heavily on demographic indicators, race, age, gender and and they try to figure out how your vote, based on that party identification, also sort of these very clear markers now came
age, or what became Cambridge claim that they could do a specific type of targeting that was based on people's personalities like they could figure out what your personality is and target you with specific messages that will be more effective because they know your personality is so to do this yeah. What's called the m psychology the big five or ocean personality traits there. It's like a survey that you it's self reporting but is poor reliable in cycles Studies at bettering pretty durable measurement was I I think I think we should explain this cause it it's the Incas alone glossed over. I think it in some of the coverage and its and it's interesting. I think it's on its own terms, where and so this is psychologists over the years have. Hit upon this. This idea that you give people this a pretty long serve right where they they ask you questions like would use to score.
self, as the life of the party to you say that you get irritated easily enough is this? Does I got a whole bunch of questions and you can go I strongly agree with that are strongly disagree or somewhere in between southern ask about your own has now answer than they do a was called a factor analysis where they choose that, like across a whole bunch of people, certain kinds of answers to some of these questions correlate with each other, both internally and externally and peoples There's cluster around like five being Poles weight, so it's ocean, its openness to experience, which is means sickly like people who are highly open to experience like day they like weird art and like trying new kinds of ethnic food and people who were closed like doing the same stuff and and they like their their communities and they like regular paintings of weapons
Asian, all things, and then there's this conscientiousness witches I think mostly what it sounds like a country and its people are organised and they do what they say. They're gonna do I'm conscientious people have messy desks and plan poorly this x, version so extroverted people like to talk like this x strangers call attention themselves interview. People like to be quiet need, like alone time, with an excellent. agreeableness as a so just what you said about being irritable versus kind of friendly and even tempered and and suspicious right. So it's like agreeable. People tend to that other people? corporate other populations in Japan, Russia, disagreeable people tonight An end is neurotic autism. So it's just basically do you constantly get wrapped up in your own head and worry about things or are you just kind of
on Wednesday worth noting that there have been efforts to kind of tie these things too, like traditional political camps in out of last several years like as there become more not awareness that politics is polarized. But lake and enthusiasm about seeing political ideology is an identity. There's been some kind of like conservatives are naturally more closed. Minded that kind of stuff- that's often been itself a little bit attenuated, but speaks to the desire to leg both under the current political groupings as some kind of natural expression of psychology, and you say well now we have science that proves what kind of person what kind of beliefs you hold and we will vote for based on what is going on in your brain yeah. Anything some of that is reasonably well found. I think this is important because, starting Andrews point about the movie sites like adding a big take over here is that, like Cambridge Analytical seems like bullshit
broadly speaking, the idea that these personality actors. Have something to do with politics. Has, some pretty good evidence that that openness, at least among white people, is highly predictive of being a liberal then there's some other things that are a little bit harder to know, because there's some significant like gender differences in personality expression and also some significant gender differences in voting behaviour. So you, like you, can look at that kind of thing. Two opposite ends of the town, No, but it's not, I guess I would say, is a if I'm his face out of ridiculous thing, to try bud, One big I mean one problem is like: if you had accurate personality inventory on everybody. There's still the whole like assuming the open part where you need to then find effect. Messaging. That will target everyone, but the
practical problem. Cambridge had is that you can just go around to every voter and ask them to fill out a hundred, Jim Survey accurately re emulate there had been. I remember in the MID two thousand a bunch of attention from consultants in both parties that, like demagogic, Ex are old and busted. The new hardness, associate, graphics and like this is where the kind of cider mom thing hid its apex, but the data that they were relying on like iron. For the first time that I read about big data was in a book, I believe by former Bush campaign adviser Matt Doubt, but I like magazine, subscriptions few people so much data about what kind of person you are and what you consume, unlike no, they their magazine subscriptions, and so those get those attempts kind of you know incomplete valiantly. To tell you a little bit like it turns out. practice in comparison to the tried and true ways of getting voters. You know you in fancy, says you graphics, didn't matter that much the Obama campaign at twenty o eight had
you're really innovative targeting into your tv operation, but it wasn't because they were doing particularly sophisticated means of identification. It was because of the ecosystem. They had four figuring out what to do with somebody. Now I mean If somebody subscribes to guns and ammo magazine, I think to make an inference about their political beliefs is not like the most outlandish than I do it's not that it's not the Socio graphic model was like inherently busted. It was that the promise of it as something that was going to read form politics by tapping into something deeper than political enow leg. The political or demographic organization turned out, not in fact to be superior to traditional demographic. Also, at any rate, you, I said: ok, we're just gonna hack your mind through the five factors make you vote for. Whoever pays the muddy yes, so slow to take it back to that.
To itself. The british add executives came over and ban and sat STI set them up with the wealthy hedge Fund Magnates Robert Mercer, who he was advising at the time and merciless daughter Rebecca there to the biggest republic donors in the country and later became two major trump supporters, though at this point they were not, and they sickly, pitched the murderers on the idea that they had this entirely new way to do political targeting that they could do it. Based on tenacity and that they wanted money to do it so the mercy We to put up fifteen million dollars to fund this new company in America called Cambridge Analytical. It was apparently mainly ashore company and and the old british group would service its contracts,
so they had made these big promises and then they needed to actually get the data to do this fancy personalities, because they hadn't worked in America may in they didn't have american data, so what they decided to you was work with this academic from Cambridge University seems to be where the name Cambridge if it came from his name is Alexander again, he saw a russian American and he created an app called this, My digital life and it was a personality, quiz app of the sorts of questions we were mentioning before and the app he put on the app and to take the quiz you have to, like. You know, click through and give it permissions to look at your facebook. and you give it the permission to look at your own profile, but it also gave it the permission to the permission to see the data on all of your friends profiles and those friend
did not opt into. This is the person who is taking the quiz click. Yes, I give you permission, but like All of these hundreds of other friends, each of them has did not give them permission. So that's where you get from two hundred. Seventy thousand facebook users took this quiz, but they ended up screw Bang fifty million profiles as a whole, based on all of their friends, information that was sucked it coke in supposing The agreed when he got Facebook permission to do this, the terms of service that he agreed to said that he would not use status for commercial purposes or sell it to and outside company. He was supposed to use it only for academic purposes, but all along, he was planning to sell I to Cambridge what a guy and and make them a good amount of money off of it. So that seems too
the plan all along that got the data and then they started using it for the twenty fourteen midterms to try and target and this is where the Facebook scandal obviously enters into a bit. But sticking with with Cobain Olano bad I mean Hickey did a thing that I think was kind of clever right cause. This has always been the question about like what can you do with big five factor analysis because it's it's a long straight and and so it's hard to do it. So when he does, as you do you answer the question fried so basically industry, the questionnaire you get a notion, analysis of yourself, but then You give him access to your facebook page and when you say that which bans you like and which tv shows you watch and stuff like that, so then he gets a bunch of data about consumer preferences that he can. Then correlate with Europe, five answers, and so then he can come up with the weather.
See analysis and against it's kind of funny ride. So it's like liking, Tom waits, Salvador, Dolly, be York, a clockwork orange and working in the hiding industry indicate that you are a heavily open personality, a feeling I didn't necessarily need fifty million data points to know that I mean it doesn't seem like you do. I mean those are pretty in a sort of some sort of normal. I was surprised to see that the placebo marks you out as one of the least agreeable people I like that band. I was I like you I was I was- I went and took the tested checks out. I am highly disagreeable person, you know, so it suits are their liking, the Bible or God make. highly agreeable. So I guess I'm that into that staff, the heavy
the neurotic ones are particularly funny a neurotic people like Sport Centre, ESPN Dare grows in Miami heat that We planting rights so apparently just moving to southern Florida and watch and sports is- can make you very emotional, stable opposite, like that's, really dead right and then with this access to the friends of friends. If it works for him and who know swayed, but Presumably through this, you now have a psycho graphic profile of not just the people who the quiz, but of all these millions of other people, they're trying to model the people who didn't take the quays based on sort of the personality results and matched with the other Facebook data from the people who did take the quiz and too like extrapolate. What everyone else is personalities, and now I think we should take a break
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until then, or of host of, I think your interesting boxes, culture, interview, podcast everyone who actually rights. The jokes president's tell you should check on my recent interview with David Lit, I think weeds listeners will find the conversation particularly interesting lit was a speech writer for President Obama and the man behind some of the former presidents best one liners. We talked about the best joke. He wrote for President Obama wanting Republicans all agree on, as they have to do a better job reaching out to minorities, humbly self centered, but I could think of one minority they could start with and what makes writing comedy for the precedent different from other come the most important thing about any president telling joke is that the joke is that it's, the president telling a jet subscribed? I think your interesting on apple podcast or wherever you listened, a pot cast I don't mean to rush the story. This is a good story, but I have a lot of questions, because the whole idea of an extremely theorized strategizing way
to figure out what people want to hear from politicians in particular and then have the politicians say it like. That is not new, but it was wholly rejected by Donald Trump right, like it's extremely hard for me to see this connection between the done Trump as a candidate who very clearly- was motivated by his own stinks and not, particularly by any deeper in what strategy or analysis of the electorate, but also the two killer messages. The Donald Trump was using that were particularly successful, which were basically The kids are coming to kill and rape you and we should stop Muslims from coming into the country, and you know you guys aren't getting enough of the good things from the government. The government is giving them to other people, like those don't seem like terribly sorry stockaded messages. They seem like messages that the Republican Party hadn't been using, not be they didn't work but because They were
kind of racist and they thought turned off people in the middle like how it is. How does all of this glum onto the context of the republican presidential primary and then the twenty? Sixteen presidential campaign, so first of all, Cambridge, did not start off working for Trump. They started off working for TED crews and a TED Chris super back, because that's who the Mercer family was supporting at the time the Cambridge got a sort of reputation, republican circles as the mercenaries someone odd pet projects, and that if you wanted cash from the Mercer. You should retain Cambridge too, like do this stuff, but then people who work with them oftentimes weren't, particularly impressed with what they actually manage to do. The crews team said that they thought that
The Cambridge is modeling, just was not reliable. Personality, modeling or or predictive data on voting was was just not useful in, and they in fact stopped using it in around February twenty sixteen and had a fight, over money and so on. So then this is basically you get ten dollars from Robert Mercer. You give through them to Cambridge, and then at least the main stream republican prose, but he's gonna roll their eyes. Yes, this is This is something that the that Charles Coke has been doing for ages and ages. The like Charles Coke, thinks that he has hacked the secret to how to run an effective company and requires a bunch of people who, in a work through his nonprofits, to learn it and basically as the market based management, is market based management and basically everyone thinks it is total in utter bunk,
and that it is ironic that the very rich and very capitalist Charles Coke has no understanding of how a capitalist firm should operate. But everybody you know is willing to sit through the classes because sitting through the classes is what you have to do to get Charles cope money. But I will say that if it was true that Cambridge analytical, knew how to reliably target swing? Voters in the most important electoral college states in a way that no other firm could do they can reach, your personality and then just bombard them with political, ads on Google facebook or targeted adds like that to that that were spent thickly targeted for their personality to make the best targeted approach to pitch them into voting for Donald Trump, That sounds like a good deal if they could actually do it, but in any case we get to the general
ignore or when just before the republican convention. I think it's surround June twenty sixteen and tromp needs some more people on his digital team and The Mercer have now moved from supporting crews to sporting Trump ban in his. Yet on the Trump team. He still has a role in Cambridge Analytical, but he's he's an adviser to trumpet and he plays a role in making the connection between Cambridge the shared Kirshner and bread par scale on the Trump campaign, so trot tyres, Cambridge, they say thirteen people out to Texas, where the trumps digital operation was and they also do work with a superpower that supporting traps Cambridge generally viewed as the the heart of trumps. Did or operation for the general election again so, Clayton, and so that includes both whatever the second graphic mysticism was, but also just like the basic blogging and tackling a flag.
I mean, like the term campaign, definitely bought. Facebook adds right. It is, if I get Cambridge, what whether they were using like secret psychological profiling, to do that, or just like regular common sense about which are the swing states and who are the voters like the they were doing? Yes, they were doing all the work he wasn't like. There was some giant other tm, and then this A little psychic consulting side, right replacing online ads. They were also placing so tv ads, they were doing polling they there. They are doing a lot of what you say traditional political, consulting work and, and they say that you know both trumps team and the Cambridge people say that they actually didn't use this special the reality targeting in the end because of the currencies data file prove to be
better and more useful at actually figuring out who people are going to vote for than cabbages supersecret, futuristic methods. That said, I mean there was some attention during the campaign to the Trump Digital operation, doing things that were egos using Facebook adds to send messages that were kind of border line in terms of propriety like there's, no law that says you're not supposed to put political adds up that are designed to suppress votes, but like usually when you do it, people don't do you will give you a hard time for it in your kind of not supposed to, and in the days leading up to the election, there were definitely reports of air both on radio and on Facebook targeted at black voters in Florida, for example, the kind of sound. Like a vote for Donald Trump message, it sounded like a dont food message. People were going. This is you know this much vaunted Trump digital operation is kind of
colouring outside the lines a little bed well and also it. So what Like few rules about campaign finance that exists in America is the like. I'm Donald Trump and I endorse message, kind of thing right and then rules and present am I. right. So certain things that you can do, which was I'd like one thing they did, was the the deed- adds aiming at younger african Americans that, like featured Clinton's. Like super predators thing from twenty five years ago, you do what sort of light from the left attacks on Hilary to try to you know, d, motivate people or, or or whatever, and that's the kind of thing that that is an ad like that had ended with like this marking grin of Donald Trump. That's it
undermines the effort to undermine pillars. Message, and I mean you, don't need to do that kind of thing wide and there's just like a regulatory question of why we have decided that Facebook should be exempt from all generally applicable laws, and there were trump people leaking at the time or at least running their mouths. To reporters saying we have a plan to suppress black voter turnout. We have a plan to suppress young millennial turn out which which involve some dredging up like this. Clinton's old accusations of sexual assault and rape and by to load even the bedrock campaign. Staffers like brainpower scale, was the dude who is running his mouth about a lot of this, like the entire idea that the Trump campaign had plans for anything, certainly wasn't coming from the candidate, and it wasn't really coming from Lake Steve Bannon, who is running the campaign. By that point, it was the idea that the Trump tech team led by
add per scale. Had this particularly sophisticated operation. Although the whole like bill, couldn't accusers thing, I mean What whether may or may not have been digital component to it? It's exactly remembering there was like a big there is a live on television, Donald Trump, bread and we always a question with which I mean a big. Question that decide what was wagging what here exactly right an end. So like it, it's true that the digital team did stuff like this, and it is true that the term campaign, like did campaigning on digital pod firms but like they also just still alive campaigning on television that, like we all saw at the time and whatever you thought of it, was not particularly mysterious I was a subtlety is not like the hallmark of dollar trumps approach to politics, yeah yeah, but it and it is also worth remembering at the time that there were. There is an article employee, a magazine about Hilary Clay-
amazing team of data wizards that had an algorithm that the campaign was relying on for every important decision. and like it was building on the Obama operation it was it was. So ingenious and end, the narrative at the time was that Clinton was to win so Clinton lost ten. and when she had the leading data signs experts in the known universe, and they had this guy with scraggly beard. Work. Anderson Antonio, like up like a web designer yet with these, like this random british tide, operation, that every republican consultants who worked with them thinks it's a joke so, but then, of course, Trump winds and then there's a surgeon four where nations and and and how We pull it off again and Cambridge after the election, is very eager to take credit and to some say play their role just because
tromp. Why did he has a very surprising thing so you know they're there and they want more business. And so they're going to you now that they have history of of sort of claiming to be able to do the impossible in, and they continue to sort of make that pitch ass, as here when I think, the thing that can probably worth noting here is that the group that they are part of is not new in terms of being political, mountains that operate in America, but also in other contexts at like there's, you know, there's been a trend of you know sending people out there. British election a few years ago, were both sides had former Obama staffers advising them. You know, David acts are reduced and a bunch of this stuff, Dick Morris's, you know, still making money because is operating in other countries or metaphor. Absolutely, and this usually is u win that with the exception of of men of fort? Maybe it's? U win in the? U S, and that gives you access to. You know a continued stream of money from other countries, because
once you ve won in the? U S that gives you credibility that you know how to when it can paint. Cambridge didn't do that. They did this in the other direction where they were. You know getting the money in Non EU countries first, but having the big win under their bell, with the Trump campaign meant even in contexts where they didn't have to go, The Mercer, is to basically twit the arms of conservative politicians, into giving them money they now had like they were able, they would be able to level up in terms of seeking foreign contracts, and in Cambridge, though also I mean it became an object of fascination both because they were out there hyping themselves, as any winner word but also because they were specifically tied to Steve Ban in the like most disreputable. Now of like the Trump people to the murderers, who, I would say there, motivations in general, in life or man, fairly obscure in a way people find.
intriguing and and a little off putting. There is a really great, Jane, Eyre peace on the mergers which which will put an show notes which I have read, and it's very good and I still don't understand what the Mercer. Why and it's a little unsettling for me as a political report or to say that gap and then added Cambridge has its ties to people who are russian. You know again like russian american data. Scientist working in England is not the same thing as the russian government, but it gets out. Not he got a grant from the russian government has social media and it certainly not nothing from the standpoint of constructing a conspiracy and also behind the Collusion. Conjecture has oh, he's a ban right. A call or of the thesis has always been a. Unsubstantiated, but you know
not unreasonable to look into hypothesis that there was some kind of deliberate sharing of data and resources between the Trump camp means Digital operation and the clearly existing brush governments digital operation, since both from campaign, digital operation and the russian government's collaboration we're trying to achieve the same goal. the question that you now of the deep conspiracy, people have always been looking for a ride like like, like the thing they think they're going to find the smoking gun their hoping for at least one of them is some direct evidence. If interplay between the San Antonio office and you know the cheer you headquarters are or something that and Cambridge Analytical exists. This potential middle yet we also kind of a level on which you know the fact that the over the last several months, we ve had all of these revelations about the particular the x
to which Russian Botz and the internet research agency you know were extremely vocal in kind of shaping what was happening on Twitter and Facebook in the months and years leading up to the election has kind of allowed a certain narrative of white happened and what what Russia's role in twenty sixteen was too congeal like the question, is always been was the election essentially hacked by this, liberate campaign to elect Donald Trump, or as the Trump campaign has often said you know we were too we weren't coordinated with ourselves. How could we coordinate with everyone else like? Was it just a chaos operation that happened to win? The idea that the russian government is pulling is is pumping all this noise into this system is kind of an easy way to say: well, yes, it was delivered campaign, it was a deliberate chaos sewing campaign, and so the idea of Cambridge Annelida, even if
they are innovative. Both has the potential to be this very coordinated, mind, hacking, operation and even if it turns out it's not a big deal. The idea of this kind of effort to push all of these messages out into the ether on social media the lines up very easily, even if you don't believe, there's actual coordination there with this narrative of we, in an artificial chaos, environments and electing Donald Trump was the results, but I think, cambridge- you know that are affirm and their predecessor firm S. Yell group, like that there on the shady side of the political, consulting business, so speculator they may have been involved in some sort of untoward efforts to dirty tracks- are: what have you thereof he's been Two major, maybe three major ways like series for Trump
Lucian with Russia for what exactly happened during the campaign. Having one is. The first is that there is some some discussion or collaboration regarding the hacking of emails and the men democratic emails that were hacked the hacks were attributed to Russia. There were all leaks, and the question is whether anyone and the Trump campaign you know collapse, it is worth knew about hadn't. information about any of this and one interesting and here is that the CEO of Cambridge Analytical Alexander next into contact with Julian Assange of Wikileaks during the campaign he he had assign said publicly that he had a bunch of hacked email. Sarah the two Hillary Clinton and next contacted him and said TAT. I get an advance. Look at the emails and supposedly Assange said no, and
and after a sound started posting the first batch that Wikileaks got the Dnc emails there, Nix contacted him again and, and he offered to him better organised the hacked emails or took like to some web projects so that the american voters, better, read and review the hacked emails now the email, things are a crime that is like very clear. So he You know that there are questions about his exposure we don't know, and the scientists hiding on the Ecuador. An embassy cause he's a fugitive. Yes, and we don't know what it whether anything. This may be nothing came of this, but Ok, so that was collusion. You no possibility number one number two is that some money changed hands in some way number three is: is this digital operation information sharing some kind, so So the idea here is that there is a lot of russian protract.
Activity online on Twitter, on Facebook com. In all these realms and there the theory has been and multiple reports, quoting anonymous sources, have said that special Council Robert Mahler, is investigating whether any sort of data sharing between the trunk team and the Russians to help the Russians figure out like who best to target said. The theory is that I guess the rush hours ago, we we have. This digital Army that can that can help you and and done that someone on trumps he may have Tipp them off about where to put their resources. Shared information about certain voters to tat and so on, and to be clear, there's no evidence that this happened. But it's it's something that, according several recent reports, Mahler still looking at very closely. He recently brought in several Orient C and Trump Data staff
to interview them about that Trump Campaigns, data practices, including grabber scale or eight. I don't remember I am sure his seat, likely was interviewed at some point, but but the our import say he's just looking for a lot of information on how the Trump team handled data, so those are sort of the closed theory in an obviously Cambridge was the heart of the Trump teams dad operation. So there being looked after that and they ve had to turn over all of their emails related to the trunk campaign to Mahler as well to the brain.
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but we have a little I got. This crisis has been buzzing around like forever right and so a wiser big news. Quite so stories that put this on the map and at the top of the plan, agenda were a pair stories in the New York Times and as the guardian observer. That came out at the end of last week in which a former Cambridge Analytical Employee, Christopher Wily, key, forward you know. It's been sort of known that Cambridge had this Facebook data for a few years now wily came forward and provided with a lot more documentation to the reporters and and first person discount and of his own role of, They actually got the data and really told the story more and told it. Colorful he's a colorful character. He describes himself as a gay
eighty inv again, who ended up building, Steve bad and psychological warfare tool so came forward. He has pink hair their allotted pictures of him. It's and it was story, and- and I think that- you know what one of the take away is that freak people out the most about the stories is like the idea that this eighty firm to use this these futuristic data techniques to Tibet, brainwash people into voting for tramper or maybe not voting, or something like that, and I think the most extreme claims of of what Cambridge can supposedly do aren't really backed up- Much, but you know, ten crews would be president if came agenda could actually use your phone. Book data to Brainwash there are a lot of senses in which they reside. Students to Trump is often
liable to believe the narratives that the Trump team is selling about themselves rightly, this is this- is something we saw last year with the kind of President Ben and stuff the idea that there is a power behind the throne. Who, like has this big long term strategy for America that something that a lot of liberals really don't want to see happen is very powerful. So I and this also ties into the kind of F it's too, in other words a meme on left twitter earlier this week, that, like the end our I gave money to Cambridge Annelida this morning, as you know, people absorbing John Bolton is going to be the new national security adviser. There's like people pointing out the John Boltons Superpower gave money does at Cambridge Analytical and the Mercer gave money to Bolton. Recognition is like that, but I think I think, in terms of like the reason that this is all coming at, that we're going to continue to see any figure in conservative politics if they have any type of Cambridge L Eta being
used as part of a liberal narrative of oh, they bought into this nefarious plan to hack your brains other. Will I mean what I mean? What's inrushing, of course read. Is that like came agenda and the Mercer family are essentially identical? I should clarify them different, but I mean they have complete overlap. Basically, in their political patronage base in the United States, and so one way of saying that, like John Barton has ties the carriage analytical, which is like who you now but may be nothing I actually had not realized until this came out that the Mercer had been supporting John Bolton. While he was off in exile that I had, broadly speaking, associated the murderers with a trend in the bless NEO kind. He more maybe isolation, SD tendency in the Republican Party, John Bonham definitely does not reflect that tendency,
and I would say it helps clarify like what kinds of toy the mercies were picking up like John Bomb, is a guy who was very conservative, who was held in a bad air by the american mainstream, sometimes because his substantive views were a little bit too far right, sometimes because he hits he has like bad manners. He ina whatever we, he definitely counts. As someone who is a conservative who was part of quote include the establishment, but have totally different sense from like the sense in which Steve Bannon had away to completely reject George W Bush is foreign policy right and it's I mean who dare was saying before. I agree: eight, it's it's! It's remains unclear to me what The virtue of family has been trying to do in american politics. The fact that John Bolton pad some role- and that is a further indicator just to me of how how clear. It is that's totally
I think the other thing here is for the You were the going on about the coax for like a decade at this point is you know a lot of conservative and, like libertarians in DC, say well the cokes, really Republicans there. You know there they their libertarians. They support criminal justice reform, blah blah blah. They support gay marriage and the counter argument is always been yes, but the king it's to whom they give money, aren't candidates who have to agree with them on those things they do have to agree with them on tax cuts and entitlements, and that is an argument that happens because we know what Charles Cook at believes The idea that a we have to be, piecing together. What cut what the murderers want from the ways in which their spending money and b, that the car and threaten the ways in which their spending money appears a people who are given of credibility by late mainstream political society and be happy
court of Non, like not super liking. people in other countries. It's not the only conclusion that you can necessarily draw from this by it. Kind of a people for whom o the real answer. All of this is racism is a very compelling argument. This seems like a very compelling way to lead to that argument. Yeah, so after those stories came out with the Cambridge former employees and just to catches. The present, we also got another investigative series on Cambridge from Channel for news and basic They had a four month cover sting in to one of their reporters, pretended to be a wealthy Sri lankan who was looking for business from Cambridge and he videotaped the exact lives, including the CEO Alexander, necks, trying to land his business basically, and they were bragging about all the things they could do next said that he could say
some girls around two and opposing candidates house, in an attempt to like some sort of prostitution related dirty trick. He said we could have someone offer the opposing candidates bribe, try to tape. There accepting at two to too wrap them. Basically, and so he can was bragging about all the things that he said supposedly have been done, he's a little vague on whether Cambridge and S Yo Group itself, had actually done those things, but but those guys a lot of attention and just added to the firms aura of of being de and shady and and so they suspended Alexander Nexus, CEO, pending an investigation and an that's basically where things are at this point, so I do have question about this whistle blower Dude Lake too. Extent are alive the people who are now participating in net blowing, enow and whistle blow
on Cambridge Analytical invested in the idea that there was something very powerful. nefarious going on be lake, how reliable, as this dude individual it has one of the stories that came out this week, which I know Both you and I had questions about. Was this dude saying that they were testing in twenty forty in messages about building a wall, I no on the- U S, Mexico Border and about draining the swamp and that this was by Steve Banner, and these strong implication was that in twenty fourteen Steve Band and wrote Donald put Trump presidential platform before Donald Trump entered the rays and lake? Given everything we know about, the chronology of when Ban and in Cambridge Analytical Joint trumps I'm paying D C extremely sketchy, and it's the kind of thing that makes me wonder how much of all of this stuff. I should be taken with the grain of salt. I would. I would want to see some documentation before believing that, like they were actually testing, Donald Trump, exact messages and twenty forty
Steve Ban and was was essentially running the show at Cambridge at that point, so I have no trouble believing that he was testing all sorts of political masters, especially on immigration. One of his favorite topics, also, you know training the swamp like that that I don't know specific phrase was tested, but but yeah I mean, as far as the whistleblowers credibility Chris for widely. I think he's he's some. you know, like many others at Cambridge, he has a penchant for very grandiose rhetoric. I think where he's, advance. The story is in actually providing documentation for what the firm actually did. So I don't think we should necessarily just entirely believe everything he might claim about the firms power.
spoke, but here I want on my face ass. He was going out trying to figure out a way to do this. I do think I mean this is where he really shed clear light and what was going on- and you know I mean I think, people The reporters have known for a long time that facebooks practices with its user data are not exactly as portrait but this was just like a good, clear, concrete example: right like Facebook, says that your dad wanna be shared unless you agree to share it. Right and then buried somewhere in their there's. This proviso that they might allow academic researchers to use this friends are friends data, but it's like the academic researchers need to agree not to use it for commercial purposes. So it turns out that agreement is a great if you had a safe deposit box at the bank and there
Oh, we won't give your key to anyone, but like actually they might give your key to academically. Surgery, but only the economic researchers promise not to steal all your shit, but also There's no effort to verify whether or not they ve stolen all your shit and also there's no consequences for them doing it and like that is facebooks privacy policy, weight and that in turn is because their privacy policy is just policy right leg is entirely a self regulatory issue which different from TAT Touch Marshall. To utter a good analogy about this about talk, I'm Goin to Burma, which, as you know his website, they have a teepee on prime programme to get tv on. Prime, you obviously have to pay them with a credit hard, and so the question anybody who accepts credit card payments are mine faces is like woody I do with that information right and what
everybody dies is they contract with a third party payment processor, whose specializes in handling credit card payment and data security, and the reason that you do that right is that you face massive legal liability. Ride like if Josh was just chipping out, will in totally good hearted way. Rather, he had no intention of like selling your credit card numbers anybody, but if those sitting around somewhere and it got lost because, like an intern of his found, it read like he'd, be on the hook for like real meaning for monetary penalty, is so companies try not to do that. Facebook is now leg in trouble because, because this data breach happen to have intersected with a large unrelated and possibly over hype. Put scandal now raise like oh, my god, they don't actually do anything to back up the claims that they make and decide. For example,
I had to get out of his fortress of solitude and do some appearances mark Zuckerberg. Obviously you know believing privacy as a concept, as he's told you, but like never appears in public sector, because he values is his privacy enormously mark Zuckerberg the living embodiment of something that is obviously true, but that Mark Zuckerberg will never say out loud, which is that privacy is a privilege to those who have the power to block father to erect walls. Great an kiddo in this is, question here I mean there is a question about political advertising on Facebook. There's a question about privacy and face unlike the question, is basically look at one time, the government took the view that he had a very light regulatory touch with internet start ups, because the key costs of squelching small new farms? Ability to do this would be
high, which is true right. I mean you imagine early. Facebook is like Mark Zuckerberg couple people. He knows that when, in this website the growing it out they couldn't of pirate like a big legal compliance team and the whole thing, would it not that not the ground if they had like a big thing eyebrows. this point is a giant multi billion dollar companies rightly they don't want to be regulated because nobody does but like if they had to hire thousand lawyers and pay them each a million dollars a year like the company would not go out of business like they could comply with any set of regulations. They just aren't, I think the other three here is people all who might not have been paying a ton of attention to all of the Tec, blue sphere concern about facebooks privacy policy now are interested in it. Because of this idea of the very power
full brainwashing operation there's something about a conspiracy narrative about a deliberate in a high tech, very nefarious plot, the peaks a lot of pulls interest and that allows them to shift blame. There's its not necessarily the case that, Cambridge Analytical was pumping messages into the american polity, or that russian for that matter, were pumping messages into the american policy that no American would dare expressed. That wasn't what was going on, but its very convenient to believe that you know, believes you personally find politically noxious, are the result of somebody exterior they're, not the result of people. You know who you consider friends or neighbours, or you know, compatriots being activated there. A long history of the reason that I am making this comparison is not because the? U S to be super clear I'll, make it clear in Tibet
there is a long history of mass media being used. Genocides theirs in a radio was a very important weapon for Hitler. Radio was a very important weapon in the rwandan genocide. The ability to kind of bread, messages out two large groups of people and empower them to do things that may be part of them would have wanted to do. But to do it in a coordinated way, is kind of verifying- and you know faced in is currently under a certain amount of fire in Myanmar, for being of a vector for fake news and hatred against Romania. Muslims, who are the victims what appears to be an ongoing genocide there something that Matt brought up in his is case against Facebook, which I feel is a really important connection to draw. What's happened in the? U S isn't anywhere near a genocide, its nowhere close, but it's a lie
easier to believe that people were trying to manipulate. You were trying to pump messages in there that we're going to hack into your brain than that. Having mass media, validates peoples. You know deep biases about the people they live. Among is maybe a thing that should be more closely watched and people should think of themselves as more responsible consumers to avoid that happening that, unlike that, is a more complicated narrative that is not nearly as fun as Cambridge Analytic. I had a plan to hack your brain to ban hacks your mind, and I- and I do I say that you know I know urban poohing, Cambridge, analytic us what they actually be met, do with this, but this data that they got is very valuable, like its facebook is in valuable company in large part because they have access to all this data- and I and I know we're joking about like how to disband- tell you about some once personality
that seems so obvious, but but its useful, like champions, spend a lot of resources to try to collect this data and book makes lot of money on sort of them. The fact that they are the place where the static lives, and maybe Cambridge hadn't, quite you know perfected the tool of secretly manipulating people based on it, but it, but it still valuable data the fact they they have obtained it, and appropriately is. Is there is a serious matter? Is an initial I mean I want to say I was my talking a little bit. The idea of this second graphic pathology right because, like born of the Cambridge claims, is that they are like able to transcend demographic targeting but the raw data that they got from Facebook with people's permission is very useful for very traditional message. Getting clearly work. I mean there's always a question about how
Persuasive is political messaging, but I is common sense. It comes as is clearly true that the ability to target your message to people who live in the swing states right is useful and constant. and to go further than certain ads only makes sense to show or make more sense to show to certain kinds of people to have. You were able to identify twenty something African american men who live in mid western tipping point states and hit them with a message about how Hillary Clinton said. This racist stuff in the past. That's like a way better idea than just like running a national political campaign. That theme and like the spaceport that's not why science, but obtaining Data is difficult unless you have a russian professor who will help you steal it. Ask him: pains, have gotten more nationalized. And you know every Democrat in any swing dust.
G20 eighteen is running against Nancy Pelosi, regardless of whether they have said they would support Nancy policy. First speaker, that kind of thing there it's gotten a lot harder to do that kind of message, targeting even at the level of like running an add on local television. That is air, far to the right or left of what you would like your donors in DC to know about. But if you, do this at the level of individuals, and you know that the political, the people who are going to be interested in comparing notes and seeing if there is hypocrisy there are see the political press which has concentrated on the coasts. The odds that some wine would manage to discover very sophisticated message targeting being done, and lake put together a pic you're from all of the various dots that are being presented easily that highly. Maybe you can do that after the campaign happens. I know that there are some, you know, parents groups out there that I urge Ito trying to crowd source the sort of data but
gives you an ability to hack society in a different way, to kind of take advantage of the several geisha and of people into their inner various groups. To make sure that the group you're sending the message is not the group who would make a big deal out of you, sending the message and with that
our great so thanks Andrew for joining us. Thanks to our are sponsors, are engineer: Griffin, Tanner producer, Brigitte Armstrong thanks to all of you out there in weeds land. I think I have not touted weeds Facebook group recently, but while Facebook is bad and will explain your dad too, let's do banning pack your brain where that, as long as we're living on this planet, you may want to join us, have an exciting disparities. The only good thing about face, but being a member of that that the weeds group has made visible much better experience. But it's true. It's a great group we made. Maybe we will use the group to brainwash you who knows what Julie Bogan are excellent. Social media manager will definitely brainwashing Cambridge Analytical of extra com and with that we're gonna be back next week.
Transcript generated on 2021-09-12.