Monday, October 16, 2017

Trump, Russia and Cambridge Analytica (Maybe the Crew From Victoria Too?)

The plot thickens. The world was awakened to how votes could be hacked, voters brainwashed, by sophisticated software, social networks, and targeted messaging in the upset "leave" vote for Brexit. Fingered in that was a small company from Victoria, B.C., Aggregate IQ, and a shadowy young man from Western Canada, Chris Wylie.

Aggregate IQ and Wylie are believed to have links to American rightwing billionaire, Robert Mercer, his cohort, Steve Bannon, and his Aggregate IQ clone, Cambridge Analytica.

AggregateIQ holds the key to unravelling another complicated network of influence that Mercer has created. A source emailed me to say he had found that AggregateIQ’s address and telephone number corresponded to a company listed on Cambridge Analytica’s website as its overseas office: “SCL Canada”. A day later, that online reference vanished.

There had to be a connection between the two companies. Between the various Leave campaigns. Between the referendum and Mercer. It was too big a coincidence. But everyone – AggregateIQ, Cambridge Analytica, Leave.EU, Vote Leave – denied it. AggregateIQ had just been a short-term “contractor” to Cambridge Analytica. There was nothing to disprove this. We published the known facts. On 29 March, article 50 was triggered.

Then I meet Paul, the first of two sources formerly employed by Cambridge Analytica. He is in his late 20s and bears mental scars from his time there. “It’s almost like post-traumatic shock. It was so… messed up. It happened so fast. I just woke up one morning and found we’d turned into the Republican fascist party. I still can’t get my head around it.”

He laughed when I told him the frustrating mystery that was AggregateIQ. “Find Chris Wylie,” he said.

Who is Chris Wylie?

“He’s the one who brought data and micro-targeting [individualised political messages] to Cambridge Analytica. And he’s from west Canada. It’s only because of him that AggregateIQ exist. They’re his friends. He’s the one who brought them in.”

There wasn’t just a relationship between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ, Paul told me. They were intimately entwined, key nodes in Robert Mercer’s distributed empire. “The Canadians were our back office. They built our software for us. They held our database. If AggregateIQ is involved then Cambridge Analytica is involved. And if Cambridge Analytica is involved, then Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon are involved."

Now Cambridge Analytica has shown up on the radar of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. They want to know if Cambridge Analytica colluded with Russian interests to hack the election and catapult Donald Trump into the White House.  Go figure.

The company is in the process of turning over documents to HPSCI, according to a source familiar with the committee’s work. Another source close to the investigation said that the probe’s focus on Cambridge Analytica is “fruitful.”

Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, had holdings in Cambridge Analytica worth between $1 million and $5 million as recently as April of this year, Bloomberg reported. Bannon, now back as the chairman of the pro-Trump media outlet Breitbart, hasn’t been publicly mentioned as a potential witness for or target of Russia investigators. He previously sat on the board of Cambridge Analytica.

Another key Cambridge Analytica investor is Robert Mercer, the reclusive hedge fund billionaire who also generously backed Trump’s presidential campaign. Mercer and his daughter Rebekah introduced several top officials to Trump’s campaign, including Kellyanne Conway and Bannon. The Mercers also are partial owners of Breitbart—among their many, many investment in far-right media outlets, think tanks, and political campaigns.

A recent Vanity Fair piece highlighted speculation among Washington Democrats that the Trump campaign’s data operation could point to collusion between Trump and Russia.

Cambridge purports to go beyond the typical voter targeting—relying on online clues like Facebook Likes to give a hint at a user’s political leanings and construct a picture of a voter’s mental state. The “psychographic” picture Cambridge ostensibly provides to a campaign is the ability to tailor a specific message based on personality type – angry, fearful, optimistic and so forth – rather than simply aiming ads at voters from likely convivial candidates.

Russian propaganda on Facebook and other social-media platforms passed itself off as authentic American voices; targeting refugees, posing as an American Muslim groupand backing an Atlanta-based duo supporting Black Lives Matter. Depending on which cohort was being targeted, the efforts encouraged pro-Trump voters to intensify political participation, black voters to abandon Hillary Clinton for Trump, and Muslim voters to consider Clinton an Islamophobe.

The Kremlin-orchestrated propaganda efforts on Facebook have evinced a level of sophistication surprising for a foreign entity, prompting speculation that Russians may have received some kind of targeting help. Such targeting reached voters in states where Clinton enjoyed a traditional advantage but went for Trump, including Michigan and Wisconsin, CNN reported.

In May, the Guardian’s Sunday Observer reported that Cambridge Analytica and its UK affiliate SCL––which owns 10 percent of Cambridge Analytica to Mercer’s 90 percent––have worked in Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Iran and Moldova.

“Multiple Cambridge Analytica sources have revealed other links to Russia, including trips to the country, meetings with executives from Russian state-owned companies, and references by SCL employees to working for Russian entities,” the Observer reported.

Meanwhile, where in hell is Chris Wylie?


the salamander said...

.. if the USA military is super adept n ready for cyber warfare
whomever is supplying them (consulting, hardware, software etc)
will offer their services to anyone for the right $
including political parties, billionaires, superpacs, scumbags

Jay Farquharson said...

Quite the sewer of treason.

The Mound of Sound said...

For more on the shadowy SCL, including a look at how it has become embedded in Trump's state dept. and defense department, check out this:

Willy said...

There was a great Guardian article in February about the scientist that came up with the algorithms to identify the seven traits of individuals, now used by Cambridge and how it was stolen/copied/reengineered by a future employee of Cambridge

The fear of the original scientist was that it could be used for nefarious purposes

After Brexit and Trumps victory, a Cambridge exec was quoted that they now had a profile of the total US electorate. A slightly wild claim but with the popularity of FaceBook and Twitter not that much of an exaggeration.

Feeding fake stories to targeted Dems. targeted by profile and voting district highlighting how Hillary's history, policies or her associations were negative to your communities or personal beliefs etc.

As well as feeding the targeted Repug base raw meet to show how dangerous Immigrants, blacks, greens yellows are etc.

All arriving on your desktop from Facebook, twitter or YouTube postings from fake users that liked your previous posts or befriended you and then passed through your network or offered as suggestions by FaceBooks or Youtube's personalized recommendation algorithms.

I do not believe that Stone would hand the Cambridge algorithms directly to the Russian so-called hackers who were creating the fake accounts (FB, blogger, twitter, YouTube) and postings/articles which were the most laborious part of this plot.

However a third company/org could of acted as middleware to feed the postings using the Cambridge algorithms, which might of been the role of the Canadian group.

That's my wild theory.

The problem about going after Stone or Cambridge is that the Republican Party has been using Cambridge for almost two years.

As an aside imagine the fits of laughter that the perpetrator of the Pizza/child ring story had when the Trump supporter showed up with his gun to check for himself. That is gullible.