Tag Archives: influence

Cambridge Analytica did not misuse data in EU referendum; it just lied about what it could do, says watchdog

This can’t be the first time an organisation harmed its own reputation with wild claims.

But Cambridge Analytica seems to have engineered its own destruction with its claim to be able to influence people using data it had accrued about them.

These referred to Americans but it seems they raised questions about the organisation’s role in the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union in 2016.

As a result, the (UK’s) Information Commissioner launched an investigation into the company in 2017 – and it collapsed in 2018.

Were the two events related? If so, it could be argued that Cambridge Analytica’s own boasts destroyed it.

Cambridge Analytica had repeatedly claimed in its marketing material to have “5,000+ data points per individual on 230 million adult Americans”, suggesting it had incredible power to micro-target individuals with suggestive political messaging using a giant psychographic database.

However, the investigation concluded that “based on what we found it appears that this may have been an exaggeration” and much of the company’s activities followed “well recognised processes using commonly available technology”.

So did it attract the unwanted attention of the information regulator needlessly?

Well, it seems the firm wasn’t involved in the EU referendum campaign at all:

[Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner] said she found no evidence that Cambridge Analytica were actively involved in the EU referendum campaign, beyond an early proposal to work with UKIP which was not put into action.

It turns out the Information Commissioner found no evidence of collusion with Russia to influence the referendum either:

[Denham] said her team also found no evidence Cambridge Analytica aided Russian intervention in the UK political process.

Particularly interesting to This Writer, though, was the revelation that

the company’s data protection practices were lax “with little thought for effective security measures”.

Couple this with the following –

Cambridge Analytica founder Alexander Nix was disqualified from acting as a company director for seven years for “offering potentially unethical services to prospective clients” including bribery or honey trap stings, voter disengagement campaigns, obtaining information to discredit political opponents, and spreading information anonymously in political campaigns.

– and we see that the firm (or at least its founder) was quite happy to break the Data Protection Act left, right and centre by obtaining information and then distributing it to the public in breach of the law.

This links with my recent court case against the Labour Party, in which I gave evidence that employees had put together false information about me and passed it to newspapers who then published it to thousands of people.

Labour’s representative tried to claim that, even though the party (as represented by its general secretary) was the data manager responsible for the way the information was used, it was not responsible for the acts of any employees because (as I understand it) there is no evidence that it ordered them to commit those acts.

But then, they wouldn’t have had access to this – false, in my case – information if Labour had not ordered them to compile it.

Put the two cases together and it seems the Data Protection Act is a dead letter – unless a person whose information has been misused can prove exactly who misused it and why they did it. That’s going to be impossible in most cases, isn’t it?

I was therefore hoping to read that the Information Commissioner was bringing recommendations to the government that would strengthen the law.

And I was keen to see what they would be.

I was disappointed. It seems all the information that we are obliged to provide to organisations, just to get on in modern life, is vulnerable to abuse every way you can imagine. Not a happy thought!

Source: Cambridge Analytica did not misuse data in EU referendum, says watchdog | UK news | The Guardian

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Tories took donations from oligarch linked to Putin. Is this why they never investigated Russian interference in UK politics?

Vladimir Putin: has Boris Johnson been his puppet since before he became the UK’s prime minister?

Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has definitely taken donations from people linked to Russia’s President Putin – and provided private meetings with the last three UK prime ministers in return.

The money totalling £1.7 million came from Vladimir Chernukhin via his wife Lubov, according to the so-called FinCEN files – leaked “suspicious activity reports” by banks.

According to BBC News,

Leaked files show her husband received $8m (£6.1m). The money initially came from a politician facing US sanctions due to his closeness to the Kremlin.

A leak of banks’ “suspicious activity reports” … shows Vladimir Chernukhin was sent the money in 2016 from a British Virgin Islands company linked to Suleyman Kerimov.

Billionaire Mr Kerimov is the owner of Russia’s biggest gold mine and member of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament.

In 2018 he was sanctioned by the US authorities, who were targeting those they said “play a key role in advancing Russia’s malign activities”.

Mr Chernukhin, 52, is a former deputy minister of finance under Vladimir Putin, who left Russia for London in 2004 after being sacked by the president.

The Chernukhins – one of the UK’s most prominent Russian-born couples – are now both British citizens and live in London.

Mrs Chernukhin’s donations to the Conservative Party began in 2012.

The majority – more than £1.5m – came after the $8m payment linked to Mr Kerimov was made to her husband on 29 April 2016, although it is not clear if any of that cash went to the Tories.

Mrs Chernukhin’s lawyers say the Kremlin had no influence because of the donations – but they would, wouldn’t they?

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has suffered a huge amount of bad publicity over his reluctance to do anything about suspicious donations from Russians linked to Putin’s government.

A report on Russian interference in UK politics – including the use of donations to influence policy – was due to be published before last year’s general election but Boris Johnson shelved it for no good reason.

It remained unpublished until pressure finally forced Johnson to re-convene the UK’s security committee, responsible for it, in July this year – nine months after the public should have seen it.

And it showed that successive Conservative governments have welcomed Russian oligarchs “with open arms”, giving them access to political figures “at the highest levels” – and made absolutely no attempt to investigate Russian interference in referendums and elections; in fact, the Tories “actively avoided” doing so.

The Tories had been delighted to welcome Russian money and the oligarchs who owned it, “providing them with a means of recycling illicit finance through the London ‘laundromat’.”

In response to the report, the government said it saw no evidence of interference – but it seems clear that there is a good reason for that: nobody was looking. The report made it clear that the defence of UK democratic processes was a “hot potato” over which no government organisation wanted to take the lead in conducting an assessment of Russian interference.

So we already had evidence that Conservative government had given Russian oligarchs who donated money to the party unprecedented access to – and, we may conclude, influence over – top-ranked political figures including the last three prime ministers.

Now we have evidence that this money is likely to have come from the Kremlin, attached to demands from the Putin government.

If Boris Johnson and his government continue to deny any wrongdoing – while refusing to allow an independent investigation – the public will have no choice but to brand them as corrupt lackeys of the Russians.

I mean…

How does it look to you?

Source: FinCEN Files: Tory donor Lubov Chernukhin linked to $8m Putin ally funding – BBC News

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Legal action over Russian intervention in UK politics? Let’s hope it happens before Johnson gags the courts!

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Boris Johnson and Evgeny Lebedev: 10 days after saying he saw no evidence that Russians were influencing UK politics, Johnson elevated a Russian to the House of Lords. He says there’s no evidence for an investigation into Russian influence in UK politics, despite a Parliamentary committee producing a lengthy report containing a large amount of it.

A group of MPs has threatened court action to compel the Johnson government to investigate allegations in a report on Russian intervention in UK politics.

Well, let’s hope they follow it through soon because Johnson is acting to stop the courts from having any power over his government.

Yes, that is dictatorship. You voted for it, folks! (Or if you don’t, being good, decent Vox Political readers, your neighbours did.)

It was in the Tory manifesto for the December 2019 election, for everybody to see, on page 48: a plan to forbid the courts from making orders that restrict the government from acting in any way it pleases.

I’m sure Hitler did something similar in Germany during the 1930s.

A group of politicians are threatening legal action unless Boris Johnson orders an independent investigation into Russian interference in elections.

The letter signed by Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour’s Chris Bryant follows a report which said the UK “badly underestimated” the Russian threat.

The parliamentarians argue the prime minister’s “lack of action” breaches the right to free elections.

The government said the UK had “robust systems” to protect elections.

Johnson has very close personal relationship with very notable Russians based in the UK. But we’re sure that has nothing to do with his reluctance on this matter… aren’t we?

Source: Boris Johnson threatened with legal action over Russia threat – BBC News

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Isn’t it his own influence – rather than public opinion – Johnson is spending a fortune on?

Spend, spend, spend: but Boris Johnson is ensuring that your money only pays his friend’s firms to provide polling that supports his activities, it seems.

It is good that someone is asking why Boris Johnson is spending £2 million this year on opinion polling – even if it is only Parliament’s toothless public accounts committee.

Critics have claimed the Tory – and his government – has been trying to understand public opinion in order to follow it, in order to gain our approval by doing so.

But isn’t it more likely that he is trying to use these polls to tell us what to think, rather than for us to tell him what to do?

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said almost as much in an attempt to justify the spend: “During this unprecedented pandemic it has been vital that people follow public health messages to save lives… This work has helped us to deliver communications campaigns to support the UK’s response.”

It’s about what the Tories communicate to us, you see – not what we tell them.

Oh, and it’s also about funnelling even more public money into the hands of the Tories’ friends, such as the research company linked to Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings that received a plum contract that was never offered on open tender (as would normally have been the case).

The excuse – that Downing Street used legally-sound emergency regulations that permit urgent Covid-related services to be quickly commissioned – was paper-thin at the start.

It disintegrated altogether when it was revealed that some of the work for which the euphemistically-titled People First received the £750,000 contract related to Brexit, not the virus.

Source: Spending watchdog to probe Tory contracts with polling companies worth at least £833,000 | The New European

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Government introduces plan to prevent interference in elections – while claiming there’s no evidence it is needed

The Conservative government has introduced new plans to “crack down on intimidation, influence and disinformation” and safeguard UK elections – while strenuously denying evidence of any such behaviour.

New laws will bar people from running for office for five years, if they are found guilty of intimidating or abusive behaviour.

In future, online election material must clearly show who has produced it – one hopes the Brexit Party will take note of this.

And there will be a consultation on ways to strengthen laws on foreign donations.

The last two measures are intended to prevent interference in UK elections and referendums by foreign organisations, and to ensure that domestic political organisations can’t breach electoral spending restrictions.

They address concerns that targeted advertisements, on social media platforms like Facebook, seen only by the intended recipient, do not contain statements showing who has funded them and on whose behalf they have been made.

Bizarrely, the government’s spokesman denied that there is any need for these planned new laws.

Kevin Foster (who?), Minister for the Constitution (oh, that’s who), said: “There is no evidence that British elections or referendums have been compromised.

“One of Britain’s most valuable safeguards is the use of pencil and paper to vote.

“But we need to review and refresh our analogue laws for a digital age, and ensure there are robust safeguards against hostile states, foreign lobbyists and shadowy third parties.”

But Jo Stevens, a Labour member of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, tweeted her scepticism:

Cognitive dissonance?

Source: Government safeguards UK elections – GOV.UK

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Facebook is STILL running ads from opaque organisations trying to influence politics – and banning Leftie sites

A website known as mainstreamnetwork.co.uk has been using Facebook to spread a pro-Brexit, anti-Chequers political message in a bid to influence the politics of the UK, according to media sources.

This comes after Facebook promised to be more open about political advertising, following harsh criticism over adverts that were targeted in ways designed to influence public votes on membership of the EU and the 2017 general election.

The social media platform was – only this week – fined £500,000 for its role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. This is the maximum fine possible under data protection rules that were in force before GDPR took effect in May.

Nobody outside Facebook knows what information is being published on the website or where it comes from – and only Facebook will know which adverts and information have been directed at which Facebook users.

This means it is entirely possible that Facebook and its advertisers are not abiding by the laws that regulate the democratic process and restrict spending on campaigns and the content of adverts.

This is crucially important at a time when Facebook is said to be removing pages run by left-leaning media sources.

US commentator Lee Camp fills you in here:

“This is a full-frontal crushing of dissident sources,” he said.

“Facebook conspired with Twitter to shut down a large swathe of independent media on the same day.

“This is like a full-on fascist takeover of independent thought.”

Well, is it?

Let’s get back to mainstreamnetwork.co.uk – the site that is not only still permitted by Facebook but actually splashed a quarter of a million pounds worth of advertising all over it.

What kind of site does Facebook endorse in this way? Take a look:

We do not know who runs the site. We do not know whether it is based in the UK or overseas. We do not know who funds it. There is no name or address anywhere on the site.

A report by political research organisation 89Up, prepared for the DCMS Select Committee… tells us that it has paid to use Facebook, probably about £250,000 in the last year, to spread its views and to encourage its users with a pro-forma letter to email UK MPs from a custom built website.

We also know that it has retained users’ email addresses, possibly in breach of data protection regulations.

Facebook has made these activities possible and profits from them. But it accepts no responsibility for ensuring its users comply with the law.

All of this is happening now – after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and after Facebook made a number of announcements purporting to address the misuse of the platform for political purposes.

Source: We don’t know who just spent £250k on pro-Brexit Facebook ads – that should worry us all

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Are these far-right, racist booklets influencing Conservative MPs?

Booklets like this far-right screed have been handed out at the Conservative conference, it seems.

Propaganda booklets promoting fascist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic ideas have been distributed at the Conservative Party Conference, according to a Vice report.

It comes after reports revealed the party’s failure to deal with Islamophobia in its ranks, and support for far-right organisations in Europe like Viktor Orban’s government in Hungary.

Now, it seems, Conservative MPs may be influenced by the fascist, racist philosophy promoted by this material.

Moralitis, A Cultural Virus, available at a meeting of the Thatcherite anti-EU think-tank the Bruges Group on Monday, stated: “The body politic has become infected. Like the growth of bacteria in a petri dish, the subversive tenets of cultural Marxism have spread as a pinking of the public discourse.”

You may be wondering where this “cultural Marxism” may be found in Neoliberal, free-market Britain. Apparently it refers to a far-right conspiracy theory with its origins in anti-Semitic beliefs that Jews – as a culture – want to undermine traditional Western values.

And we’ve all been told it’s the Labour Party that’s full of anti-Semites!

The booklet goes on to suggest this “cultural Marxism” is”an epidemic disease so powerful that it has a cytopathic effect on society, changing the cognition and behaviour of its hosts. While older people have developed resistance, younger people are more susceptible to the virus due to their lack of immunity. Their idealism arises from a lack of ‘real world’ experience.”

What a relief that there were hardly any young people at the Conservative Conference, then.

The Vice article states: “The booklet blames immigration for “relentless population growth” and suggests that the growth of Britain’s Muslim population was “a deliberate policy to replace one set of voters with another”. It also notes that it is absurd for progressives to favour immigration, “considering the very conservative cultures that they bring” – for instance, “the growth of fundamentalist Islam”.” It goes on to suggest that such “progressives” are like turkeys voting for Christmas.

This refers to a far-right conspiracy theory called “The Great Replacement”, that believes Western culture is being systematically “replaced” by the culture of immigrants from third-world continents who are allegedly “pawns for the revolutionary zeal of cultural Marxism”.

The meeting of the Bruges Group was said to be well attended this year, with a cabinet whip keeping watch over hard-Brexiteer MPs – that’s right, Conservative members of Parliament have been swallowing this tripe.

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Cambridge Analytica: Facebook users’ direct messages were collected without permission

So, did anyone reading This Site use the This Is Your Digital Life app on Facebook?

This Writer doesn’t download any third-party applications – at least, not if I can help it – because you just don’t know what they really do with your information and how much they take.

Looks like I was right about that, doesn’t it?

The Guardian story quoted below says it remains unclear whether the information from This Is Your Digital Life was used to target voters with messages designed to influence them at the ballot box.

There’s an easy way to find out, though: Ask.

So, if You were targeted, it is in the public interest that you let the right people know.

The right people are not Cambridge Analytica or anybody associated with the app.

Contact Carole Cadwalladr via The Guardian and let her know what you know.

Aleksandr Kogan collected direct messages sent to and from Facebook users who installed his This Is Your Digital Life app, the Guardian can reveal. It follows Facebook’s admission that the company “may” have handed over the direct messages of some users to the Cambridge Analytica contractor without their express permission. The revelation is the most severe breach of privacy yet in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The social network admitted to the transfer of data in its warning to users whose friends had installed the This Is Your Digital Life app, which harvested data from not only the installer, but also all their friends on the site.

“A small number of people who logged into This Is Your Digital Life also shared their own news feed, timeline, posts and messages, which may have included posts and messages from you,” the company told affected users.

The statement appears to echo previously unreported claims made by Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower. Wylie told the Observer that he had seen a table, produced by Kogan, that included private messages. It remains unclear whether GSR, Kogan’s company, or Cambridge Analytica ever used the messages to build any targeting models.

Source: Revealed: Aleksandr Kogan collected Facebook users’ direct messages | News | The Guardian


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Graphic video used by Cambridge Analytica to influence Nigerian election

This is how the elite bully the plebs into doing as they are told.

Cambridge Analytica sought to influence the Nigerian presidential election in 2015 by using graphically violent imagery to portray a candidate as a supporter of sharia law who would brutally suppress dissenters and negotiate with militant Islamists, a video passed to British MPs reveals.

The video… has graphic scenes of violence from Nigeria’s past. In testimony to the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) select committee last week, the whistleblower Christopher Wylie told MPs: “[The video was distributed] in Nigeria with the sole intent of intimidating voters. It included content where people were being dismembered, where people were having their throats cut and bled to death in a ditch. They were being burned alive. There was incredibly anti-Islamic, threatening messages portraying Muslims as violent.”

Wylie also said Cambridge Analytica directed AggregateIQ (AIQ), the Canadian digital services firm that worked for Vote Leave during Britain’s EU referendum, to target voters with the video during the Nigerian presidential campaign.

Source: Revealed: graphic video used by Cambridge Analytica to influence Nigerian election | UK news | The Guardian


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Plutocracy in the UK: It seems the only qualification to rule is a massive bank account

Many of the donors dined secretly with Theresa May [Image: Rex Features].

The Tories can protest innocence all they like; what do YOU think these millionaires and billionaires discuss at these meals with ministers that they have bought with their hefty donations?

Call This Writer a cynic if you want, but I simply don’t think they discuss the weather.

Common sense suggests that, having spent a pretty penny propping up the Tories financially, these people will want a say in what those Tories do.

Of course, this would conflict with the principle of democracy, in which the Tories would be expected to do in government what they promised in the manifesto that was supported by a large proportion of the voting public.

(That’s the manifesto that seems to have been whitewashed out of history, as you’ll remember.)

The suggestion of corruption is heightened by the fact that the Tories had to be pushed into complying with their promise to name Leaders Group meal guests, the fact that all of these guests are spectacularly rich Tory donors and none of them are poor, and the fact that the Tories refuse to disclose what was discussed and whether it had any effect on their policies.

What are we to conclude – if not that the only qualification needed, to have a say in the way the Tories run the country, is to be filthy rich?

Matters such as conscience and responsibility have no bearing on it.

Humiliated Tory chiefs have finally named dozens of super-rich donors who dined with Theresa May.

Guest lists were slipped out without fanfare on the Conservative Party’s website.

The new list names 64 donors who attended a Leader’s Group meal with Theresa May or a top minister between January and June 2017.

Billionaires who attended meals in that period include Bestway cash and carry chief executive Zameer Choudrey, JCB boss Lord Anthony Bamford and hedge fund tycoon Sir Michael Hintze.

The latest dinner was believed to have seen billionaires and tycoons dine on lobster and beef with the Tory leader just weeks ago.

The meal came just hours after the government confirmed millions of people’s benefits would be frozen for another year.

Despite the newly-published list the Tory party refuses to say what is discussed at the dinners, even if it touches on government policy.

Source: Tories quietly name more than 50 donors who dined with top ministers and Theresa May after pressure from the Mirror – Mirror Online


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