Scratching The Surface with SCL Elections and Cambridge Analytica
By TruePublica: According to reports by Freedom House, the global human rights Think Tank, democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets—including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law were challenged in far-off countries that most of the electorate in the West couldn’t care less about. But it really is much worse than we are being told. The SCL Elections/Cambridge Analytica scandal is merely scratching the surface of what is to come right on our own doorsteps.
The Freedom House report concluded that online manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 18 countries over the past year. It appears that the Internet, far from being the democratising tool hoped for across the world, has fallen considerably short of expectations. Nearly two-thirds of the entire population of the planet live under government censorship regimes and it is set to get considerably worse – by stealth. But truthfully, we in the democratic West expect to hear of such abuses in places like China, India, the Middle East, Africa and the like.
Disinformation tactics contributed to a seventh consecutive year of overall decline in internet freedom, as did a rise in disruptions to mobile internet service and increases in physical and technical attacks on human rights defenders and independent media. In addition, there was a record number of governments who have restricted mobile internet service for a variety of political or security reasons.
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Although the report shows that seventy-one countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, it was notable that this marked the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. It also didn’t really know anything at all about what was going on in the shadows of geopolitical interference by America and Britain.
Significantly, as we have seen since the arrival of Donald Trump, the United States has retreated from its traditional role as both a champion and self-determined exemplar of democracy amid an accelerating decline in American political rights and civil liberties. The same can very much be said of Britain and the European Union with some notable state interventions arriving in the form of insidious legislation.
Ironically, unbridled neoliberal attitudes in the West appears to have facilitated a wave of scandals from SCL Elections and Cambridge Analytica to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but not excluding, of course, the biggest search engine Google. All are now engulfed in scandals of one sort or another as all have profited from what appear to be campaigns to usurp the principles of democracy or disrespect economic laws. Surely, this is the ultimate humiliation of extreme capitalism.
We forget in reports researched by organisations like Freedom House that countries like Britain are in continual freefall when it comes to those very same basic tenants of democracy. Even in this report, we see these erosions. However, what is not reported is the illegality of the surveillance state covertly operating in the background, proven time and time again in the high courts of Britain and Europe to be breaking basic laws common to the democratic principles of free societies. And then there are the more recent revelations.
We should also not forget amongst the noise of the SCL Elections/Cambridge Analytica scandal on both sides of the pond some of the very basic facts unravelling before us. SCL and CA are both British companies. Both have close connections to the British establishment and the so-called deep state. Both SCL and CA have contracts with the British and American military and intelligence services. They are deeply connected to MI5, MI6 and the NSA and the military-industrial complex.
Conservative party donors inhabiting right-wing margins in (America and) Britain are among the investors in SCL that spawned this dystopian undercover villain whose business model is the manipulation of the general public. All the while, we should not forget that this company has a specialism – rigging election results all over the world, using military strategies – all of which are totally illegal. And it has been doing so for years.
Craig Murray, ex British ambassador reiterates the same: “SCL is as Establishment as a company can get. The most worrying aspect of this is that SCL is paid by the British government to manipulate public opinion particularly in the fields of “Security” and “Defence”, and still more worryingly SCL – this group of ultra Tory money men seeking to refine government propaganda at the expense of you, the taxpayer – is cleared by the MOD to access classified government information.”
This shady global operation involves stealing personal data on a scale that is still not fully understood no matter what we have read. The use of big data and funds from foreign billionaires and the diverse forces of the Leave campaign influenced the result of the EU referendum – again, the extent of which, is only just unravelling.
There is a strong suspicion that the combined actions of SCL/CA along with ‘other campaigns’ (currently subject to lawsuits and criminal investigations) nudged the EU referendum over the line. At TruePublica, we have categorically stated this all along.
In a vote which saw a 72.2 percent turnout comprising nearly 34 million voters, just 1.2 million was enough to swing the vote. This may sound like too many to swing one way or the other but when you consider that one week before the referendum there were nearly 10 million voters who had not made up their minds about which way to vote. During this time, ‘micro-targeting’ was at its peak with hundreds of millions of micro-ads hitting the social media accounts of those pinpointed who could be influenced.
Facebook made around a one thousand million pounds in advertising revenue in the UK alone in 2016, equivalent to the entire national newspaper market combined. And yet when it came to the EU referendum they were not subject to the proper scrutiny of the Advertising Standards Agency, Ofcom or the Electoral Commission at Britain’s most crucial post-war decision. How much it made from accepting ‘dark money’ from all over the world to change the political outcome of Britain is never really likely to be known.
The Guardian reports that “Former employees of Facebook have also been speaking out. Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian that other companies had used the same terms as Cambridge Analytica to access users’ data. He said he had warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach.”
The other thing to remember is that SCL/CA have been exposed in manipulating democracy through data that was sourced from Facebook. But SCL was around before ‘Zuck’ stole the whole Facebook idea from his college buddies. We do not know what else SCL/CA has done in terms of data collection. Think of the transnational behemoths who could benefit from these military manipulation strategies. The Pharmaceutical, energy, munitions and banking industries have an appalling record when it comes to global lawbreaking for instance. There is more to come with this story for sure.
For instance, Buzzfeed News reports this morning that – “Two of Britain’s most prestigious media brands, the Economist and the Financial Times, hired controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica to help them get more subscribers in the United States.”
Facebook is now known to have around 5,000 pieces of data about each individual and will sell it to anyone regardless of the consequences – including the rigging of national elections.
When the British and Amercian governments were caught with their pants down on the surveillance programmes they had built with taxpayers money and without the mandate to do so, dodgy and deceptive legislation has been the preferred route to legitimising their ghastly operations. It took the likes of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and others to stand their ground in the face of enormous adversity to bring us the news that we, the people, were the enemy of our own elected representatives. These brave people brought the deep state to the surface. It used to be a conspiracy theory to think the government was watching you!
Therefore, is it a conspiracy theory, given what we now know, that Brexit was engineered. America is losing its economic, industrial and military edge to the new kids on the bloc. In terms of economic output, China and the European Union (in that order) both overtook America three years ago and there’s little possibility America will catch up given the trading conditions up to the last US presidential election (hence the new trade wars that are emerging).
Is it far-fetched to think that over time, what we will see is a Brexit Britain aligning itself more with America than the European Union? Is it fantastical to think that the USA will then focus its malevolent appetite for global domination by effectively weakening its European allies by coercing a new conflict – over Russia?
What we have before us is American influence declining all over the world. The Washington Post points out that “Donald Trump will be the first president in nearly a century to end his first year in office without having held a state dinner for a foreign head of state.”
Neoliberal capitalism is failing. Globalisation is in decline. These were the instruments of post-war American domination and they are all in decline.
It is no longer outlandish to think that the deep state, the establishment, right-wing neoliberal capitalists and war-mongering industrialists are all connected to SCL and CA? That much is, in fact, true as we are now learning.
Daniel Kahneman, who won a Nobel Prize in economics for reshaping our understanding of human motivation, once said: “No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.”
Last December, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel declared that the decline of American influence in the world “is accelerating the transformation of the global order . . . and the risk of trade wars, arms races and armed conflicts is increasing.”
This whole story with SCL/CA is not new to the powers that be. What is new is that the general public was not supposed to know anything about it, just like the Snowden revelations back in 2013.
Today, Russia, the new post-cold-war bogeyman, is that story and we in Britain should be worried about entering a new era of instability and insecurity that was stage-managed by our so-called allies in a one-sided special relationship.