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Cambridge Analytica CEO boasts in video about role in Trump effort

British broadcaster Channel 4 shows Alexander Nix telling an undercover reporter about tactics Cambridge Analytica used in last year's US presidential election.


Alexander Nix talks to an undercover reporter.

Channel 4

Exactly how much involvement did Cambridge Analytica have in Donald Trump's election campaign?

It's a question that's been asked multiple times over the past few days, and thanks to undercover reporting by British broadcaster Channel 4, we finally have some answers straight from the mouth of now-suspended Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix.

In a video published Tuesday, the broadcaster showed Nix discussing the full scale of his work on the Trump campaign, including messaging around the "Defeat Crooked Hillary" ads. "We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy," Nix told an undercover reporter for Channel 4.

The reporter posed as a fixer for a wealthy client who wanted to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka and met with senior executives from Cambridge Analytica in London on four occasions between November 2017 and January 2018.

The video also shows Nix discussing the use of a secret email system where messages self-destruct and how Cambridge Analytica uses proxy organisations to feed untraceable messages onto social media.

He added that his firm could avoid any US investigation into its foreign clients. "I'm absolutely convinced that they have no jurisdiction," he said. "We'll say, 'None of your business.'"

The clip follows a separate video posted Monday in which Nix was caught on camera boasting about lying and other dirty tricks Cambridge Analytica used to get political candidates elected. That clip got Nix suspended by the company.

The reports aired following a weekend of revelations about the company and its exploitation of Facebook data to try to manipulate the behavior of millions of voters. Reports by The New York Times and the UK's Guardian and Observer newspapers revealed that Cambridge Analytica misused data harvested by University of Cambridge researcher Aleksandr Kogan, allowing the firm to better target around 50 million Facebook users with political ads.

In a statement to Channel 4, a spokesman for Cambridge Analytica said it was "patently absurd" to suggest the company thought it had won the campaign for Trump. "We are proud of the work we did on that campaign, and have spoken in many public forums about what we consider to be our contribution to the campaign," he said.

He added that Cambridge Analytica had a "strict firewall" in place to separate work on political campaigns from work on political action committees and said it was "common practice" to use encrypted communications.

Channel 4's report also featured an interview with Hillary Clinton, in which she discusses the potential impact of Cambridge Analytica and Russian social media interference on her own campaign.

"When you have a massive propaganda effort to prevent people from thinking straight, because they're being flooded with false information, and you have people who are searching ... trying to make sense of it. But every search engine, every site they go into is repeating these fabrications. Then, yes, It affected the thought processes of voters," Clinton said.

First published March 20, 12 p.m. PT
Update, 12:30 p.m.: Adds news of Nix's suspension.

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