Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Bannon, Mercers, Cambridge Analytica Collection - Weaponizing Propaganda

Here's a collection of articles that examine Steven Bannon's partnership with Robert Leroy Mercer and Rebekah Mercer the billionaires with an extremist, and rather absolutist, and quite self-interested plan for America.  Fed by raging resentment at our Democracy, and the notion that We The People hold rights and powers which allow us and our governmental agencies to restraint their ravenous, often destructrive, appetites.
The Cambridge Analytica is but one example of the amoral underhandedness these people will gleefully resort to.  Following the list, I share interesting quotes.

2018 (21)
          By Andy Kroll
          By Curt Devine, Donie O'Sullivan and Drew Griffin, CNN
          By Mary Spicuzza and Daniel Bice, Milwaukee
          ByTara Cox
          By David Gilbert
          By Brennan Weiss  
          Opinion - Will Bunch - phillynews.com
          By Jonathan Lemire | The Associated Press
          Steven Rosenfield, Alternet | Opinion
          By Isobel Thompson
          By Aaron Rupar
          by Nancy LeTourneau
          By Bob Dreyfuss
          Daniel Bice and Mary Spicuzza, Milwaukee
          By   Peter Isackson
          By Craig Timberg, Karla Adam and Michael Kranish
          By: Katelyn Kivel
          By Bob Dreyfuss
          By Carole Cadwalladr
          By Sean Illing
          By Billy House

2017 (17)
          By Todd Gitlin 
          By Judy Molland
          By Casey Michel
          By Issie Lapowsky
          By Anita Kumar and Ben Wieder | McClatchy Washington Bureau
          By Betsy Woodruff | Spencer Ackerman
          By Julie Alderman & Matt Gertz 
          By Victor Feldman
          TRNN Documentary
          By Gronda Morin
          By Ursula Faw
          By S. Nova
          By Travis Gettys  and Carole Cadwalladr.
          By Vicky Ward
          By Berit Anderson and Brett Horvath

2016 (4)
          By Ríán Tuathal Derrig
          By Rebecca Berg   |   RCP Staff
          By Michelle Celarier 
          By Rachael Revesz New York
Selected quotes:

MAY/JUNE 2018 issue of Mother Jones

Cloak and Data: The Real Story Behind Cambridge Analytica’s Rise and Fall
The secretive data firm said it could move the minds of American voters. That wasn’t its real victory.

1. “I can’t stand lying to you every day”
In the late summer of 2015, Chris Wilson, the director of research, analytics, and digital strategy for Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, had a conversation with a contractor that left him furious. …
… After Cruz dropped out in May 2016, the Mercers had quickly shifted their alliance to Trump, and his campaign hired their data firm over Manafort’s apparent objections. “Obviously he didn’t bargain for Rebekah Mercer being their big advocate,” Watts says. “So I presume he just capitulated.” Soon Trump jettisoned Manafort and installed in his place the Mercers’ political Svengali, Steve Bannon, who was also a board member, vice president, and part-owner of Cambridge Analytica. …

2. “We called him Mr. Bond”
“We use the same techniques as Aristotle and Hitler,” the consultant said. “We appeal to people on an emotional level to get them to agree on a functional level.”
The year was 1992. The consultant was Nigel Oakes, a former Monte Carlo TV producer and ad man for Saatchi & Saatchi, and he was speaking to the trade magazine Marketing. Oakes was then running the Behavioural Dynamics Institute, …

3. “Marketing materials aren’t given under oath.” …
But after Romney’s loss in 2012, the Mercers were fed up. Bekah Mercer turned heads at a 2012 postmortem event at the University Club in Manhattan when she excoriated the Romney campaign for its lackluster data operation. According to people familiar with the Mercers’ thinking, Bekah and her father set out to find their own data geniuses.
Over lunch in Manhattan, Bekah listened intently as Nix gave his pitch. When he finished, she said, “I really want you to tell this to my dad.” She gave him an address with instructions to meet later that day. At the appointed time, Nix and Block arrived … 
Behind them stood Steve Bannon, the investment banker turned Hollywood producer and conservative activist who took over Breitbart News after the death of Andrew Breitbart. Whatever Nix told the Mercers that day in 2013, it worked: They agreed to invest a reported $15 million in a new company that would be the face of SCL’s American political work. Bannon was given a seat on the board and a stake in the new company to help, as Nix later said, the firm navigate the US political scene. 

Nix installed himself in Mercerworld, presenting himself as Bekah Mercer’s political guru and taking meetings at the Breitbart Embassy, the Capitol Hill row house that served as the conservative website’s offices and Bannon’s crash pad. The company was incorporated in Delaware on December 31, 2013. The name was a mix of old and new: Cambridge Analytica. …

4. “They’ve gotten the wool pulled over their eyes” …

5. “The phenomenon Donald Trump”
The Cruz campaign was still in the process of unwinding when Cambridge, following the lead of its investors, the Mercers, offered its services to the Trump campaign. Cambridge had previously reached out to Trump’s team, but his advisers didn’t want to hire the firm if it was also working for his rivals. Now, this was no longer an issue. Nix sent three employees to Texas to meet with Brad Parscale,  …

6. “I am aware how this looks”
Nix was near his London office when a Channel 4 correspondent confronted him. “Have you ever used entrapment in the past?” the reporter asked, thrusting a microphone in Nix’s face. “Is it time for you to abandon your political work?” … “I am aware how this looks,” Nix said in a statement. He explained that the explosive comments he and his colleagues had made to an undercover reporter were untrue. They were just “playing along” with “ludicrous hypothetical scenarios” proposed by a prospective client. …


March 31, 2018

How Steve Bannon used Cambridge Analytica to further his alt-right vision for America
By Curt Devine, Donie O'Sullivan and Drew Griffin, CNN

Two former employees said that Bannon was personally involved in the company's early stages and that he played a direct role shaping its strategy and goals.
"This was Steve Bannon's baby," said former contractor Christopher Wylie, who described Cambridge Analytica as "Bannon's arsenal of weaponry to wage a culture war on America using military strategies."
Bannon wanted to use the sorts of aggressive messaging tactics usually reserved for geopolitical conflicts to move the US electorate further to the right, Wylie said. He had already directed a series of anti-establishment, conservative documentary films and presided over the far-right website Breitbart News, but Cambridge Analytica would mark another step in his overall ambitions to transform the nation. …
Wylie said that Bannon's plans began to solidify in 2014, when Cambridge Analytica consulted various Republican campaigns and PACs ahead of the midterm elections. The company began to test and apply its psychographics by using Facebook data to model individuals' personality types in order to understand how to influence them.
Documents show the John Bolton Super PAC, which promoted candidates supported by recently appointed White House national security adviser John Bolton, paid Cambridge Analytical $454,700 in 2014 for "behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging." Those services included strategies that broke individual voters into "clusters" based on what messages would resonate with them. …


March 29, 2018

Wisconsin GOP operative Mark Block details Cambridge Analytica meeting on yacht


March 27, 2018

Cambridge Analytica chief executive set up "fake office" in Cambridge
Whistleblower Christopher Wylie says the fake office was used to "present a more academic side" to Cambridge Analytica

… Mr Wylie added: "Alexander realised that and decided to set up a fake office in Cambridge, so whenever Steve Bannon - this is before Bannon came on board and set up the project which became Cambridge Analytica - whenever Bannon would come, we set up this fake office and, to sort of present a more academic side of the company. …


Mar 26, 2018

Cambridge Analytica had “foreign agents” working on the 2014 GOP midterms

Cambridge Analytica sent dozens of foreign workers to advise Republican 2014 midterm campaigns, even though the company’s own lawyer explicitly warned that doing so was illegal, the Washington Post reported Monday.
Three former Cambridge Analytica employees, including whistleblower Christopher Wylie, detailed the company’s decision to ignore legal advice and send Canadians, Britons and Europeans to work on Republican campaigns.
“[Cambridge Analytica’s] dirty little secret was that there was no one American involved in it, that it was a de facto foreign agent, working on an American election,” Wylie said.
The employees were sent to the U.S. despite a 10-page memo prepared by New York Attorney Laurence Levy for CA President Rebekah Mercer, Vice President Steve Bannon, and CEO Alexander Nix, explaining why this was potentially illegal. …


 March. 24, 2018

New details emerge about Steve Bannon's ties to Cambridge Analytica

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has deep ties to the embattled data firm, Cambridge Analytica, which has come under scrutiny for using the Facebook data of 50 million people without permission.
Bannon, who helped found the data company and served as its vice president, has denied knowing about the firm's purchase of the Facebook data.
But a former employee at the company contradicts Bannon's claims and recently posted a page from an alleged letter indicating that Bannon was, at least in part, aware of Cambridge Analytica's activities related to the US election.


March 22, 2018

'Race Realism': How Steve Bannon, Cambridge Analytica modernized white supremacy to elect Trump.
Opinion - Will Bunch - phillynews.com

It’s a day that will be indelibly burnished on America’s political memory: June 16, 2015, when Donald Trump descended on an escalator from the marble splendor of his Trump Tower penthouse — with his supermodel wife ahead of him, Neil Young’s “Rockin’ the Free World” blasting at 11 from the speakers — to tell all the little people waiting on the ground that he was running to be America’s 45th president. …
In a stunning week of revelations, we now know the answer. The core messages of the president’s underlying xenophobia and racism that animated his base didn’t emerge from the mind of “very stable genius” Trump (despite a long life of troubling racial attitudes). 
Instead, the nonstop undercurrent of hate toward The Other in American life was focus-grouped, computer-coded, deliberately amplified by a new ultra-right-wing media echo chamber and then targeted with cruise-missile precision at the handful of states that Trump won by roughly 100,000 votes to grab the Electoral College.
At its blackened heart, it turns out, are the two ugliest words to emerge in U.S. politics in the 21st century: “Race realism.”
There’s nothing real, or factual, about “race realism.” To the contrary, it’s the rank, old-school racial stereotypes  …


March 22, 2018

Mueller examining Cambridge Analytica, Trump campaign ties
By Jonathan Lemire | The Associated Press

… All told, the Trump campaign paid Cambridge just under $6 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. The largest payment to Cambridge Analytica — $5 million on Sept. 1, 2016 — was made about two weeks after Bannon was appointed the chief executive of the Trump campaign, according to FEC records. At that same time, another Mercer ally, pollster Kellyanne Conway, was named his campaign manager to replace Manafort.
Bannon, with the Mercers’ backing, served as vice president of the firm from June 2014 to August 2016, when he joined the Trump campaign. He has since had a falling-out with the Mercers and with Trump …


March 21, 2018

Steve Bannon’s surprising opinion about Cambridge Analytica
The Cambridge Analytica scandal revelations keep surprising use

{Rosenfield explains why he believes the Cambridge Analytica coverage and outrage has been overblown.  Yet Rosenfield seems to go too far in the other direction of normalizing something that’s quite scary and ultimately threatening to a moral civil functioning society. }


MARCH 21, 2018

How involved was Trump’s campaign consigliere with Cambridge Analytica? And will the scandal blow up in Jared Kushner’s face?

It is fitting that the surveillance scandal now enveloping Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining consultancy that allegedly siphoned tens of millions of profiles from the Silicon Valley giant, should begin with Steve Bannon. It was Bannon, after all, who helped launch Cambridge Analytica, more than three years before he joined the Trump campaign, as part of his effort to provide a digital foundation for the coming populist revolution. It was the election of Donald Trump that brought attention to the ways that Russian operatives weaponized Facebook as a propaganda tool. And it was heightened scrutiny of Facebook’s role in the election that ultimately turned the reportorial spotlight back on Cambridge Analytica’s own methods for manipulating U.S. social networks for political ends.
Now, the whistle-blower behind the report is taking specific aim at Bannon’s influence at Cambridge Analytica in 2014, when the company was busy building his “psychological-warfare mindfuck tool.” In a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post, former Cambridge Analytica research director Chris Wylie alleges that Bannon signed off on spending nearly $1 million to obtain data, including from Facebook. “We had to get Bannon to approve everything at this point. Bannon was Alexander Nix’s boss,” said Wylie, referring to the Cambridge Analytica C.E.O. who was suspended yesterday. “Alexander Nix didn’t have the authority to spend that much money without approval.” …


March 21, 2018

Trump accidentally touts key role of Cambridge Analytica in 2016 campaign
"'Drain the swamp' -- and every time I said it I got the biggest applause."

At one point, Trump recounted the origins of the campaign slogan he first used on October 17, 2016, at a time when his campaign was on the ropes — “drain the swamp.”
“A couple of you are a little marginal about this, but I came up with this expression, it’s called ‘drain the swamp,’ right, drain the swamp. And I hated it, I hated it. And it was a speech during the campaign, and it was a term that was actually given to me, usually like to think them up myself, but this was given to me — which bothered me too. I never like that.
But they had this expression ‘drain the swamp.’ And I hated it, I thought it was so hokey. I said, ‘that is the hokiest, give me a break, I am embarrassed to say it.’ And I was in Florida where 25,000 people were going wild, and I said, ‘and we will drain the swamp’ — the place went crazy. I couldn’t believe it. And then the next speech I said it again and they went even crazier. ‘We will drain the swamp… we will drain the swamp,’ and every time I said it I got the biggest applause. And after four or give times I said, boy what a great expression, I love saying it, it’s amazing.” …


March 21, 2018

Russiagate Has Reached Steve Bannon’s Doorstep

… But with all of the news about Cambridge Analytica over the last week, Russiagate has finally reached Bannon’s doorstep. According to whistleblower Christopher Wylie, the company was started in 2014 when Bannon convinced billionaire Robert Mercer to invest millions of dollars in its creation. As I mentioned previously, it is hard to believe that it is nothing more than a coincidence that almost immediately they contracted with Aleksandr Kogan, who happened to also be working with St. Petersburg University on a similar project, in order to steal Facebook data.
We also learned from Wylie that as early as 2014, Cambridge Analytica was testing words and phrases that went on to be mantras in the Trump campaign, like “drain the swamp” and “deep state.” This was all going on over a year before Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, but several years after Bannon met Trump in 2011. Soon after that meeting, the head of Breitbart News decided that “Trump might be ‘the one’ who could shake up American politics.” …


March 21, 2018

Cambridge Analytica's Psy-Ops Warriors
   Behind Trump's stolen Facebook data lurks a team of spooks and right-wing generals

… Less noticed, however, is the fact that behind CA and its parent, the London-based SCL Group – for Strategic Communications Laboratories – stands a shadowy clique of former spooks, military intelligence specialists in psychological warfare operations ("psy-ops"), and right-wing military officers, at least two of whom have close ties to General Stanley McChrystal, the disgraced "runaway general" who lost his job as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2010 after a exposé by Michael Hastings in Rolling Stone
One of those generals, Michael T. Flynn, …
The other senior officer, much lesser known, is Steve Tatham, a British psy-ops specialist and a former commander in Britain's Royal Navy, who served as head of SCL Group's defense-related business. …

… In an interview with the Guardian, Christopher Wylie, former Cambridge Analytica data specialist who oversaw the compilation and weaponization of the stolen Facebook data, and who's now a whistleblower, explained why CA's military-derived counterinsurgency ideas were was so attractive to Steve Bannon. "The reason why [Bannon] was interested in this, because he followed this idea of the Breitbart doctrine, which is that if you want to change politics, you first have to change culture, because politics flows from culture," said Wylie. "If you to fight a battle, if you want to win a war, you need weapons for that. You need cultural weapons, and we could build them for him."
According to a new lawsuit filed by the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, Cambridge Analytica had at least 10 data analysts embedded in the Trump campaign's own voter-targeting data machine, led by Brad Parscale, and it charges that the Trump campaign, CA, and the Make America Number 1 PAC coordinated improperly, in violation of federal election regulations. It was that machine, which worked in concert with the Republican National Committee in 2016, that reportedly made use of the improperly obtained Facebook data. …


March 21, 2018

Wisconsin GOP operative Mark Block helped link Steve Bannon, Cambridge Analytica

Of course, there's a Wisconsin connection to the Facebook scandal involving Cambridge Analytica.
And, perhaps not surprisingly, it involves longtime Wisconsin GOP operative Mark Block.
Block, who has a history of campaign missteps, has been named as a key player in the international uproar over Cambridge Analytica, a London-based firm that mined data from 50 million Facebook users to try to influence the 2016 presidential race. …


March 21, 2018

The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: “Culture,” Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon

… Breitbart’s doctrine is a good example of getting it right where most people get it wrong and getting it wrong where most people get it right. Most people — and especially Democrats — think the practice of politics (initiating and passing legislation) is the principal way of changing culture. In their opinion, legislating in favor of civil rights or gun control can correct the obvious flaws in society.
Alas, history proves them wrong. As an example, after 50 years of civil rights legislation, racism is still endemic in US society. Breitbart itself is a shining example of that fact, as was the election of Donald Trump. Making something illegal not only doesn’t eradicate its cultural roots. It can have the opposite effect.
But Bannon makes a much bigger mistake in believing he can change culture through propaganda and the kind of “psyops” (manipulation) that Cambridge Analytica specializes in. Such practices can aggravate the most extreme cultural trends, augment divisions and degrade politics. But they can’t change culture. The majority of Americans subscribe to values such as constructive dialogue, tolerance, fair play and generosity — that may be characterized as idealistic and, therefore, not always operational — but they constitute the foundation of the nation’s identity and self-belief. To maintain its internal stability, that historical identity requires a faith in authentic democratic virtues.
Culture is the one thing no deliberate human agency can change. According to Wylie, Bannon “wanted cultural weapons and we [Cambridge Analytica] built them for him.” But culture is not war. It’s the opposite. It’s the natural growth of elements within a holistic system. Failure to recognize that reality has hurt both the Democratic and Republican Party, paradoxically the two minority parties that share a monopoly on political power. A near majority of the US electorate declares itself independent. The holistic system is on the point of breaking down. …


March 20, 2018

Bannon oversaw Cambridge Analytica’s collection of Facebook data, according to former employee
By Craig Timberg, Karla Adam and Michael Kranish

LONDON — Conservative strategist Stephen K. Bannon oversaw Cambridge Analytica’s early efforts to collect troves of Facebook data as part of an ambitious program to build detailed profiles of millions of American voters, a former employee of the data-science firm said Tuesday.
The 2014 effort was part of a high-tech form of voter persuasion touted by the company, which under Bannon identified and tested the power of anti-establishment messages that later would emerge as central themes in President Trump’s campaign speeches, according to Chris Wylie, who left the company at the end of that year. …
“We had to get Bannon to approve everything at this point. Bannon was Alexander Nix’s boss,” said Wylie, who was Cambridge Analytica’s research director. “Alexander Nix didn’t have the authority to spend that much money without approval.”
Bannon, who served on the company’s board, did not respond to a request for comment. He served as vice president and secretary of Cambridge Analytica from June 2014 to August 2016, when he became chief executive of Trump’s campaign, according to his publicly filed financial disclosure. …


March 20, 2018

Steve Bannon Directly Oversaw Cambridge Analytica’s Theft of 50M Facebook Users’ Data

… Bannon used Cambridge to test phrases like “drain the swamp” used in the campaign of Donald Trump and the phrase “deep state,” which became the name of the all-consuming right-wing conspiracy theory over the past year. These phrases were tested by Bannon and Cambridge more than three years before they entered the popular political discussion.
Cambridge was part of Bannon’s effort to build a right-wing populist machine on the right. But a former research director and founding force of Cambridge Analytica, Chris Wylie, made the depth of this connection apparent Tuesday in an interview with the Post. Wylie said that Bannon approved the $1 million operation to acquire Facebook profiles and other data in 2014. …


MARCH 19, 2018

Is Steve Bannon Trump’s Link to Putin and the European Far Right?
The ultra-right populism of the president’s former top adviser is in sync with Euro-Russian reaction.

… But if Bannon, Trump, and Putin all agree that Russiagate is fake news, they have something else in common too: Trump’s far-right nationalism, Europe’s growing, proto-fascist nativism, and Russia’s own traditionalist, Orthodox Church–based version of nationalism, are converging—and there’s evidence they are increasingly working together, or at least in parallel. 
Over the past week, Bannon toured Western Europe, dispensing his rough-edged benediction on Italy’s far right. He spoke at a rally for France’s fascist-tinged National Front (“let them call you racist…wear it as a badge of honor”). He met with a leader of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). And he praised Hungary’s Viktor Orbán (“a real patriot and a real hero”), whose fascist-leaning, Islamophobic ruling Fidesz party leans toward Putin. Next door, the far-right Freedom Party of Austria has established a five-year cooperation agreement with Putin’s United Russia party.
Indeed, many of these Euro-rightists applaud Russia, whose leaders have reportedly returned their approval. And it’s worth remembering that for years Bannon has also looked favorably on Russia, not least because he apparently believes that Trump’s America and Putin’s Russia are Christian allies against the Muslim world. Bannon sees Russia as the bastion of something not too far removed from the Catholic-inspired right-wing nationalism that he himself espouses …


March 18, 2018

I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower
For more than a year we’ve been investigating Cambridge Analytica and its links to the Brexit Leave campaign in the UK and Team Trump in the US presidential election. Now, 28-year-old Christopher Wylie goes on the record to discuss his role in hijacking the profiles of millions of Facebook users in order to target the US electorate

The first time I met Christopher Wylie, he didn’t yet have pink hair. That comes later. As does his mission to rewind time. To put the genie back in the bottle.
By the time I met him in person, I’d already been talking to him on a daily basis for hours at a time. On the phone, he was clever, funny, bitchy, profound, intellectually ravenous, compelling. A master storyteller. A politicker. A data science nerd.


March 17, 2018

Cambridge Analytica, the shady data firm that, might be a key Trump-Russia link, explained
   Why House investigators think this company might have gamed Facebook and helped Russia spread fake news.

So far there’s been a lot of speculation about the potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and most of the stories have orbited around the financial dealings of the Trump family and people like Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. But this story is specifically about how team Trump, with the help of this data company, might have facilitated Russia’s meddling in the US presidential election.
So here’s what we know about Cambridge Analytica, its connections to the Trump campaign, and what sorts of things Mueller is likely looking into.
Trump’s digital army …

Flynn and the Russians …
… Harris examined intelligence reports that described the efforts of Russian hackers to retrieve emails from Clinton’s server and pass them along to Flynn, who would then share them with the Trump campaign.
By itself, Harris’s reporting makes no connection to Cambridge Analytica. But in August the Associated Press published a report that helped connect the dots. In an amended public financial filing, Flynn was forced to disclose “a brief advisory role with a firm related to a controversial data analysis company that aided the Trump campaign.”
The “data analysis company” is none other than Cambridge Analytica. The precise amount of money Cambridge paid to Flynn is unknown, as are the details of Flynn’s role.
But we know that congressional and DOJ investigators believe that Trump’s campaign might have helped guide Russia’s voter targeting scheme and that Flynn, who worked for Trump’s campaign and with Cambridge Analytica, is suspected of having extensive ties with Russian operatives. …
What does Cambridge Analytica actually do? …
So what are they doing with all that data? …
There’s a lot we don’t know …

Congress wants answers from the Facebook CEO on the Cambridge Analytica data breach.
By Christopher Sheachristopher.shea@vox.com
Remember Ello? Once deemed a "Facebook killer," it’s plugging away on a smaller scale.

March 26 Europe is doing way more than the US to protect online privacy
By Trevor Butterworth
As the US frets over Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the EU sets tough new rules.

March 23 Elon Musk deletes the Facebook pages for Tesla and SpaceX
By Aja Romano@ajaromano
The tech guru chipped into the anti-Facebook conversation by deleting pages he hadn’t known existed.

March 22 How Facebook made it impossible to delete Facebook
By Aja Romano@ajaromano
We’ve adapted our entire culture around Facebook. That makes "just quitting" easier said than done.

March 21 Cambridge Analytiwhaaaa?
By Julie Bogenjulie.bogen@vox.com
Everything you need to know about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, explained in a podcast.

March 21 Cambridge Analytica and its many scandals, explained
By Andrew Prokopandrew@vox.com
The firm has close ties to Steve Bannon, worked for the Trump campaign — and is now in some hot water.

March 21 Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook “made mistakes” on the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He’s not apologizing.
By Emily Stewart
It took Zuckerberg five days to discuss the misuse of 50 million people’s personal information

March 21 The case against Facebook
By Matthew Yglesias@mattyglesiasmatt@vox.com
It’s not just about privacy; its core function makes people lonely and sad.

March 20 The Facebook data breach wasn’t a hack. It was a wake-up call.
By Aja Romano@ajaromano
Facebook expected its user data to be harvested. It just didn’t expect Cambridge Analytica to do it 50 million times.

March 20 Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica crisis keeps growing
By Emily Stewart
The FTC is investigating. Congress wants to know what happened. And Facebook’s stock is plummeting.

March 19 Banks have to know their customers. Shouldn’t Facebook and Twitter?
By Emily Stewart
Banks have a lot of regulatory oversight. The tech industry doesn’t.

March 17 Cambridge Analytica, the shady data firm that might be a key Trump-Russia link, explained
By Sean Illing@seanillingsean.illing@vox.com
Why House investigators think this company might have gamed Facebook and helped Russia spread fake news.


January 14, 2018

Bannon, Lewandowski to Testify in Russia Probe Behind Closed Doors
By Billy House

Stephen Bannon and Corey Lewandowski are scheduled to testify in the coming week as the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of possible Russian interference in the 2016 election reaches a crescendo.

President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist and former campaign manager, respectively, are part of a hectic schedule that Democrats fear is being engineered by Republicans keen to end the probe as soon as possible. Their appearances are voluntary, and they’ll meet with the panel in private, said officials from both parties familiar with the committee’s schedule.


OCTOBER 31, 2017

How Robert and Rebekah Mercer Bought a Huge Stake in ‘Populism’
The new oligarchs, from number-crunching to democracy-choking.

… In particular, without the fervent, enduring support of the hedge fund tycoon Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, Steve Bannon would never have amounted to more than a nationalist crank churning out loony movies laying waste to liberal cosmopolitans. Breitbart News would have croaked when its founder died. And Mercer’s company, Cambridge Analytica, would not have stepped up to perform valuable services for Trump’s campaign. …


October 29, 2017

Why is the Trump Campaign Lying About the Data Firm It Paid Millions?
By Judy Molland

Between July and December 2016, the Trump campaign paid almost $6 million to Cambridge Analytica, a British data-mining firm, to help the campaign target potential voters.
On October 25, it was revealed that Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, had emailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asking for help in accessing Hilary Clinton’s 33,000 “missing emails.”
Now, surprise, surprise! The Trump campaign team is actively denying any contact with Cambridge Analytica,


OCT 26, 2017

Trump campaign is abruptly trying to distance itself from data firm it paid millions. Here’s why.
After months of praising Cambridge Analytica, the president's team suddenly clams up.

… Brad Parscale, who oversaw Trump’s data-gathering efforts, hired the firm in June 2016 at the behest of Trump’s former campaign manager Steve Bannon, who himself was the former vice president of the Cambridge Analytica board, per Business Insider.
During the election, Cambridge Analytica was seen as pivotal to Trump’s eventual victory. A story from NBC a few days before the election noted that the company held approximately 4,000 “data points” on over 200 million American adults. Jared Kushner, in a May interview with Forbes, said that Cambridge Analytica was part of “formaliz[ing] the system” for the campaign “to ramp up … digital fundraising.” …


October 26, 2017


… Cambridge Analytica was paid $5.9 million by the Trump campaign, according to Federal Election Commission filings, $5 million of which went toward buying television ads, with the remainder going to pay Oczkowski and his team. But that wasn't the only work Cambridge did for the campaign. Parscale says Cambridge’s head of digital, Molly Schweikert, managed an advertising budget of roughly $12 million on behalf of Parscale's firm, Giles-Parscale. It’s a sizable, but still small slice of the $94 million Giles-Parscale was paid in total to purchase the campaign’s ads.
The Cambridge staff helped the campaign identify which voters in the RNC’s data file were most likely to be persuadable, meaning they were undecided but looked likely to swing toward Trump. They also created lists of voters who were most likely to become donors. In August 2016, a Trump aide told me Cambridge was critical to helping the campaign raise $80 million in the prior month, after a primary race that had been largely self-funded by Trump. This was the only period during which Oczkowski’s staff relied on Cambridge’s data, because the RNC was just beginning to share its data with the Trump team.
Cambridge went on to conduct hundreds of thousands of voter surveys for the Trump campaign to better understand the likely Trump voter and sent a full-time staffer to the New York headquarters, who could relay these findings to senior staff, including Parscale. …


October 23, 2017

Steve Bannon’s already murky Middle East ties deepen
By Anita Kumar and Ben Wieder | McClatchy Washington Bureau

Shortly after Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon left the White House, a company with close ties to him was hired by the United Arab Emirates to launch a social media campaign against its Arab neighbor, Qatar.
It was part of a multimillion-dollar effort by several Middle Eastern nations to isolate Qatar that received a boost when Trump criticized the country that for years had been a critical regional ally.
The UAE is paying $330,000 to a firm with the same parent company as Cambridge Analytica, the business Trump employed to reach voters with hyper-targeted online messaging during the campaign, to blast Qatar on Facebook and Twitter, among other sites, according to federal records.
Bannon, who remains one of Trump’s closest advisers, has long had an interest in the region. He has huddled with UAE officials behind closed doors, visited the country as recently as last month and pushed for a group of Middle Eastern nations, including the UAE, in their bitter dispute with Qatar. …


October 11, 2017

Russia Probe Now Investigating Cambridge Analytica, Trump’s ‘Psychographic’ Data Gurus
They were once Steve Bannon’s favorite analytics shop. Now investigators want to know if the Kremlin had a thing for Cambridge Analytica, too.

… As The Daily Beast and others have reported, Russian propaganda on Facebook and other social-media platforms passed itself off as authentic American voices; targeting refugees, posing as an American Muslim group and 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. …
… Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a top White House advisor, played a role in Cambridge Analytica’s work. A cover story in Forbes published shortly after the election noted that “Kushner’s crew” brought on the firm “to map voter universes and identify which parts of the Trump platform mattered most…” …


September 10, 2017

Steve Bannon is deeply tied to the Mercer empire. 60 Minutes didn't ask him a single question about it.

CBS’ 60 Minutes conducted a wide-ranging, highly anticipated interview with Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and current Breitbart.com chief executive. But host Charlie Rose never mentioned Bannon’s patrons, the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah. It is their support for Bannon that makes him a power broker from outside the Trump administration -- and their history with the Breitbart chief has been littered with conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and corruption.
Bannon has served as the Mercers’ political adviser for years, according to The Washington Post, where he assessed “the impact of think tanks, policy groups and super PACs they were considering financing.” It was Rebekah Mercer who reportedly “pushed” then-candidate Donald Trump to hire Bannon on his campaign. When he clashed with other Trump aides in April, she reportedly urged him to stay in the White House. …


August 26, 2017

‘Reclaim New York’: Mercer-funded, Bannon-guided campaign sows distrust of local government

Now that he has departed the White House as President Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon is returning to his old job as editor of Breitbart News with more influence than ever. But the alt-right “news” website isn’t the only project that Bannon is involved in. In late July, I was given a flash drive and instructions to attend a meeting in a vacant rented storefront in Utica, N.Y., about 80 miles west of Albany, which led me to discover another, lesser known organization operating under Bannon’s guidance — one whose objective seems to be the crippling of local government in order to build, from the grassroots up, a constituency mistrustful of elected officials, institutions and public policy.
While this campaign is playing out in upstate rural New York, its headquarters are at 597 Fifth Avenue in New York City, at an office that houses the data mining company Cambridge Analytica. Owned by Long Island billionaire hedge fund manager and Trump’s largest campaign contributor Robert Mercer,


  August 18, 2017

The Bizarre Billionaire that Backed Bannon and Made Trump President

TRNN Documentary: Steve Bannon was fired from the White House on Friday, August 18th, 2017, but most of the media is missing the story of Robert Mercer, the billionaire that brought Bannon to the White House, who has now reappointed him as chairman of Breitbart News
THOMAS HEDGES: Ever since Donald Trump won in November, Democrats and the media have been obsessed over the question of whether Russia colluded with the Trump campaign. But the real story behind Trump isnt about Russia. Its about Wall Street, and its about one billionaire in particular, whose political mercenaries pushed Donald Trump into the White House.
July 2016, and a very disorganized Trump campaign is headed into an equally chaotic Republican National Convention.
The latest fundraising numbers for June are dismal, and according to CNBC, Trump is second-guessing his decision to make Mike Pence his running mate, making last minute phone calls to assess the pick, just days before the event.


July 27, 2017

Steve Bannon has a shadow press office. It may violate federal law.

In an arrangement prominent ethics experts say is without precedent and potentially illegal, the White House is referring questions for senior presidential adviser Stephen K. Bannon to an outside public relations agent whose firm says she is working for free.
Alexandra Preate, a 46-year-old New Yorker and veteran Republican media strategist, describes herself as Bannon's "personal spokesperson." But she also collaborates with other White House officials on public messaging and responses to press inquiries. It was Preate who responded when the Center for Public Integrity recently asked the White House Press Office questions about Bannon.
Preate, however, is not employed by President Donald Trump’s administration or paid by the federal government.
The unorthodox setup means Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, is potentially violating the Antideficiency Act, which provides that federal employees "may not accept voluntary services for [the] government or employ personal services exceeding that authorized by law.” …


July 24, 2017

Connecting Cambridge Analytica, Mercers, Steve Bannon, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump And Russia
By Gronda Morin

As to connecting the dots in the Trump-Russia probe/ puzzle, the following Guardian Report has garnered lots of attention but it does shed some light. It almost sounds like a sci-fy script. I have footnoted below a link to the entire article which is very lengthy and time consuming to read but crucial for understanding more about the Trump-Russian Inquiry and Brexit. Yes, both elections are intertwined. …


July 19, 2017
Bannon “Crapping Diamonds” As House Calls Campaign Digital Director To Testify In Russia Probe 
By Ursula Faw

Parscale played a critical role in the Trump campaign, directing online spending and voter targeting. Parscale was in charge of a highly sophisticated data bank built and paid for by the Republican National Committee. …

… Lying, planting fake news stories and pulling emotional triggers has never been so creative — nor so effective. Who is Brad Parscale? He was not only the digital director of the Trump campaign he was also Trump’s “ghost tweeter,”  just as Tony Schwartz was Trump’s “ghostwriter” for “Art of the Deal,” and Schwartz wrote every single word. 
Similarly, it is no coincidence that the most cogent and destructive tweets emanating from Trump’s twitter account were in fact authored by Parscale. The arm of the Russian connection is long and it reaches deep. Bloomberg reports on the night of the third debate in Las Vegas:


July 13, 2017

Steve Bannon misreports $2 million debt in financial disclosure
    Top Trump adviser to amend filing after Center for Public Integrity questions

White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon failed to properly disclose more than $2 million in mortgage debt on his required financial disclosure form — an error that was compounded when top White House ethics officers certified that Bannon's incomplete disclosure form was complete and complied with federal rules.
Instead of disclosing the creditors for the four home loans he reported, Bannon simply wrote "HOME LOAN" on each line of the form. Bannon’s form was the only one of more than 400 forms filed by Trump Administration appointees — and reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity and Reveal — that did not specifically list the creditors. …


July 9, 2017

Cambridge Analytica: Psychological manipulation for Brexit and Trump?
By S. Nova

To understand the depths of this process, you have to realize that this is a combination of psychographics and data mining, and using the freely supplied information on the net. People literally invited the technology companies in to target them with pre-designed and slanted information for the purpose of affecting how they perceive candidates and agendas. It is both subtle and outright and a true ‘con game’.
Data Mining aka Business Intelligence (BI)
Before I enter into the explanation of what has occurred, it’s important to comprehend what data mining is. …
Psychographics: Revealing Your Inner Self
Psychographics has been used by marketing companies to understand the unique perspectives, desires, wants and needs of the general populace. …
Who Is Cambridge Analytica?
BBC devoted a lot of time in an expose on Cambridge Analytica. While this company is not alone in their approach to altering someone’s opinion through the use of crafted messaging, their CEO, Alexander Nix, explains that they have a bit of a different approach. Their combination of demographics, media and geographics assists in understanding the individual personality, likes, dislikes and how they can be altered to influence how someone votes. …
Influencing the U.K. Voters…Or Not?
In a 2015 press conference for ‘Leave.Eu’, an organization to promote the exit of the EU, members of Cambridge Analytica made what sounded like an innocent announcement projecting that their psychographics abilities and data set analysis had already brought out many voters that were new, apathetic or newly registered.
In a February 2016 campaign magazine, they reported the comment previously made by Alexander Nix, that Cambridge Analytica had “already helped supercharge Leave.Eu’s social media campaign.” …
Cruz to Trump
Cambridge Analytica used psychographics with the Presidential campaign for Senator Ted Cruz as the Republican nominee. It appears that Cambridge Analytica hadn’t quite perfected their abilities as the former Cruz campaign manager, Rick Tyler, indicated that what Cambridge Analytica promised versus what they delivered, fell short. …
Time to Investigate
In 2017, the Information Commission opened a formal investigation into the methodologies that companies such as Cambridge Analytica are using with data analytics. Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham is following through on allegations of data scraping of personal online data to segment the delivery of messages without the knowledge of the individuals. These are listed as being ‘invisible to the public’. …


May 15, 2017

Secret document reveals shady ties between Trump megadonor Robert Mercer, Steve Bannon and Brexit

... secret legal document shows two Brexit campaigns may have illegally coordinated under the direction of Trump megadonor Robert Mercer.
The confidential document shows the data firm Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by Leave.EU during the British election campaign, purchased the intellectual property license of AggregateIQ, which was retained by Vote Leave, reported Carole Cadwalladr for The Guardian. …


March 17, 2017

The Mercers  - The blow It Up Billionaires

When politicians take money from megadonors, there are strings attached. But with the reclusive duo who propelled Trump into the White House, there’s a fuse.
By Vicky Ward

Last December, about a month before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Rebekah Mercer arrived at Stephen Bannon’s office in Trump Tower, wearing a cape over a fur-trimmed dress and her distinctive diamond-studded glasses. Tall and imposing, Rebekah, known to close friends as Bekah, is the 43-year-old daughter of the reclusive billionaire Robert Mercer. 
If Trump was an unexpected victor, the Mercers were unexpected kingmakers. More established names in Republican politics, such as the Kochs and Paul Singer, had sat out the general election. But the Mercers had committed millions of dollars to a campaign that often seemed beyond salvaging.
That support partly explains how Rebekah secured a spot on the executive committee of the Trump transition team. …

… For years, Robert has embraced a supercharged libertarianism with idiosyncratic variations. He is reportedly pro-death penalty, pro-life and pro-gold standard. He has contributed to an ad campaign opposing the construction of the ground zero mosque; Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, a group that is associated with fringe scientific claims; and Black Americans for a Better Future—a vehicle, the Intercept discovered, for an African-American political consultant who has accused Barack Obama of “relentless pandering to homosexuals.” 
Magerman, Robert’s former colleague at Renaissance, recalls him saying, in front of coworkers, words to the effect that “your value as a human being is equivalent to what you are paid. ... He said that, by definition, teachers are not worth much because they aren't paid much.” His beliefs were well-known at the firm, according to Magerman. But since Robert was so averse to publicity, his ideology wasn’t seen as a cause for concern. “None of us ever thought he would get his views out, because he only talked to his cats,” Magerman told me.
Robert’s middle daughter Rebekah shares similar political beliefs, but she is also very articulate and, therefore, able to act as her father’s mouthpiece. …

February 9, 2017

The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine
     There’s a new automated propaganda machine driving global politics. 
     How it works and what it will mean for the future of democracy.
By Berit Anderson and Brett Horvath

“This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go,” said professor Jonathan Albright.
Albright, an assistant professor and data scientist at Elon University, started digging into fake news sites after Donald Trump was elected president. Through extensive research and interviews with Albright and other key experts in the field, including Samuel Woolley, Head of Research at Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project, and Martin Moore, Director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at Kings College, it became clear to Scout that this phenomenon was about much more than just a few fake news stories. 
It was a piece of a much bigger and darker puzzle -- a Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine being used to manipulate our opinions and behavior to advance specific political agendas.
By leveraging automated emotional manipulation alongside swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts, A/B testing, and fake news networks, a company called Cambridge Analytica has activated an invisible machine that preys on the personalities of individual voters to create large shifts in public opinion. …

Welcome to the age of Weaponized AI Propaganda. 
Part 1: Big Data Surveillance Meets Computational Psychology …

Part 2: Automated Engagement Scripts that Prey on Your Emotions
Collecting massive quantities of data about voters’ personalities might seem unsettling, but it’s actually not what sets Cambridge Analytica apart. For Analytica and other companies like them, it’s what they do with that data that really matters. …

Part 3: A Propaganda Network to Accelerate Ideas in Minutes
Meanwhile, surprised by the results of the 2016 presidential race, Albright started looking into the ‘fake news problem’. As a part of his research, Albright scraped 306 fake news sites to determine how exactly they were all connected to each other and the mainstream news ecosystem. What he found was unprecedented -- a network of 23,000 pages and 1.3 million hyperlinks.

IMAGE-Albright scraped 306 fake news-SCOUT_AI
Part 4: A Bot Gestapo to Police Public Debate
If fake news created the scaffolding for this new automated political propaganda machine, bots, or fake social media profiles, have become its foot soldiers -- an army of political robots used to control conversations on social media and silence and intimidate journalists and others who might undermine their messaging. …

The Future of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine
The 2016 U.S. election is over, but the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine is just warming up. And while each of its components would be worrying on its own, together, they represent the arrival of a new era in political messaging -- a steel wall between campaign winners and losers that can only be mounted by gathering more data, creating better personality analyses, rapid development of engagement AI, and hiring more trolls. …

Public Sentiment Turns Into High-Frequency Trading …
Personalized, Automated Propaganda That Adapts to Your Weaknesses …
Not Just a Bubble, But Trapped in Your Own Ideological Matrix …


Dec 26, 2016

Trump used sophisticated propaganda to win US election
Manipulation of voters based on psychological profiling is propagandist in truest sense
By Ríán Tuathal Derrig

A small amount of media attention has been directed at a political consultancy firm called Cambridge Analytica. Hired by Republican super PACs and candidates, it was contracted by Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, and in the final month of the race by Donald Trump’s.
Its board members include Steve Bannon, a prominent far-right commentator and Trump’s “chief strategist and senior counsellor”. Cambridge Analytica specialises in directing campaign advertisements to specific voters based on a psychological profile of their personality.
How does this work?
First, you ‘mine’ data. …


August 18, 2016

How the Trump-Bannon Alliance Took Shape
By Rebecca Berg   |   RCP Staff

“As Breitbart grew, Mr. Trump was constantly in touch with Steve about news articles and doing interviews with his reporters,” Bossie said. Bannon would also launch a radio show, on which Trump appeared as a regular guest; when the program moved under the Breitbart banner in 2014, Trump was Bannon’s first interview. In this election, the site has helpfully amplified Trump’s message and defended him against attacks.
“It was an organic thing,” Bossie said of the relationship between the two men, now five years in the making. …
… If Bannon entered politics through a back door, however, he has since moved in and changed the locks. In addition to his work with Breitbart, he sits on the board of the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit founded by “Clinton Cash” author Peter Schweizer. And he is a close ally of Robert Mercer, the Republican mega-donor; Bannon collaborated with him to launch the data outfit Cambridge Analytica, which was used by Ted Cruz’s campaign during the Republican primary. …


December 13, 2016

Robert Mercer’s Trade of the Century
The Renaissance Technologies executive went all-in on Donald Trump — and won.
By Michelle Celarier
Former colleagues say Mercer’s ultraconservative, free-­market, antigovernment opinions make him unique among the millionaires and occasional billionaire who sit around that table. His views touch upon such varied and controversial topics as support for climate change deniers, a return to the gold standard, and the extreme free-market Austrian economics and individualism popularized by Ayn Rand.
Mercer also has long held strong views on the Clintons.
“He thought Bill Clinton was a criminal, and I’m sure he still does,” says Nick Patterson, who worked at Renaissance until 2001 and in 1993 suggested hiring Mercer from IBM Corp. …


November 23, 2016

Steve Bannon’s data firm in talks for lucrative White House contracts
Cambridge Analytica is backed by Robert Mercer, whose daughter is on the Trump transition team, while Trump's soon-to-be chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is on the board

By Rachael Revesz New York

The data company that helped push Donald Trump to victory is now hoping it will win two lucrative contracts to boost White House policy messaging and to expand sales for the Trump Organization. …


A bonus,

Post-Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back

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