Cambridge Analytica, the data mining company that harvested the personal information of millions of Facebook users without their knowledge and used it to influence elections worldwide, returned to the headlines with damning footage released of them pitching the spreading of lies in order to take down political figures.
Reporters from Channel 4, posing as potential clients, met with Cambridge Analytica heads, including CEO Alexander Nix under the guise of gaining information on how the company works. The secretly filmed footage shows Nix offering to lure political opponents with bribes and into meetings with prostitutes.
He also suggested the spreading of gay rumours as a way of leading to a candidate’s resignation, stating, ‘These are things that, I mean, 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.’
Suggesting it could work on the prejudices of voters, either outing actual gay politicians, or implying other ministers could also be gay, Managing Director, Mark Turnbull, continued, ‘There’s no good fighting an election campaign on the facts, because actually it’s all about emotion.’
The backlash against Facebook policies didn’t end there as it was revealed they had quietly blocked the option to target ads by sexual orientation on its ad platform last month. The company had decided to remove identity-based targeting while keeping interest-based targeting, but never publicly announced it.
This has led to problems for LGBT organisations, such as The Trevor Project, a helpline aimed at helping suicidal youth and promoting their mental health. Chief Growth Officer, Calvin Stowell said in an interview, ‘It’s really important to have that targeting be available. We’re advertising our services — obviously they’re life saving…We have a very limited budget, and so now I have to throw money at the wind, hoping it’s going to reach the group I want to reach.’
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