Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix, has been suspended from the data-mining firm, as a new expose captures him on camera boasting about running Donald Trump’s digital effort, meeting repeatedly with Trump himself and, through micro-targeting, powering the campaign to victory.
The Cambridge Analytica board said that Nix was suspended with immediate effect pending an investigation. “In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegation do not reflect the values or operations of the firm,” the company said in a statement. “His suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.”
In the third part of an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News, Nix was caught on camera describing how his company could create front organizations and feed them negative material about opposition candidates, which would then be spread all over the internet. Nix also said that US lawmakers didn’t understand the technical details of what is firm was up to, and his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was done “after five minutes.”
“We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign,” Nix was recorded saying. “The television campaign and our data informed all their strategy.” Nix also claimed that Republican members on the House Intelligence Committee asked him just three questions during his testimony in 2017. “They’re politicians, they’re not technical. They don’t understand how it works”, he said. He added that he’d met Trump “many times”.
The executives also appeared to suggest that there was a planned division in their work in the U.S. between the official campaign and other “political action groups”. It is possible that this could be considered coordination — which is illegal under U.S. law.
In the second past of the investigation, which aired yesterday, Nix boasted about using sex workers and bribes to entrap political opponents. “[We could] send some girls around to the candidate’s house,” Nix said. “[Ukranian girls] are very beautiful, I find that works very well.”
The extent to which Cambridge Analytica’s micro-targetting can be credited with Trump’s electoral victory is debatable — and experts have wondered just how effective to a tool it is. Nonetheless the fact that Nix boasted about meeting Trump, and previously talked about using entrapment and other dirty tricks against political opponents, raises serious questions about the firm’s role in the 2016 election.