Most ignored story of the day https://t.co/8B3mN472M8
— julie k. brown (@jkbjournalist) May 17, 2018
Think this news kinda got overlooked in the torrent yesterday. I know that CA’s much-vaunted “secret sauce” turned out to be “leave a few bank doors unlocked, tell our Russian clients about it, and pretend we don’t know how the vault, the registers, and the spare change out of the cashiers’ desks got looted”, but this still seems significant. Especially since the NYTimes is careful to point out that the company’s “principal owner” is Robert Mercer:
Appearing before the Senate Judiciary committee [yesterday] as part of the ongoing investigation of Cambridge Analytica and various forms of meddling in the 2016 elections, former employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie said that the company and its then-VP Steve Bannon were pursuing voter suppression tactics aimed at black Americans.
Although Wylie insisted that he himself did not take part in these programs, he testified to their existence.
“One of the things that provoked me to leave was discussions about ‘voter disengagement’ and the idea of targeting African Americans,” he said. “I didn’t participate on any voter suppression programs, so I can’t comment on the specifics of those programs.”…
“I can comment on their existence, and I can comment more generally on my understanding of what they were doing,” he explained under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).
“If it suited the client’s objective, the firm [SCL, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company] was eager to capitalize on discontent and to stoke ethnic tensions,” read Wylie’s written testimony.
“Steve Bannon believes that politics is downstream from culture. They were seeking out companies to build an arsenal of weapons to fight a culture war,” he explained at another point in the session. He suggested questions on the nature of those weapons, and the specifics of any potential race-based voter suppression tactics, to be directed to Bannon…
“How specifically, then, did they target African American voters,” Sen. Harris had asked, “understanding as you do that the African American population is not a monolith? How did they then decipher and determine who was African American so they would target them in their intent to suppress the vote?”
“Racial characteristics can be modeled and I’m not sure about the studies that my colleague here was referencing but we were able to get an AUC score, which is a way of measuring accuracy for race that was .89 I believe,” Wylie answered.
AUC, he then explained, stands for “Area under the receiving operations characteristic. It’s a way of measuring precision, which [the .89 figure] means it’s very high.”
In other words, black voters could be identified based on their social media presence and other factors, despite the fact that the black community is, obviously, far from homogeneous…
New: Steve Bannon used Cambridge Analytica in an effort to suppress the black vote in 2016, whistleblower says. https://t.co/hu8iYy16AK
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) May 16, 2018
… After the hearing, Wylie said he was happy both Republican and Democratic lawmakers had attended.
“Although Cambridge Analytica may have supported particular candidates in US elections, I am not here to point fingers. The firm’s political leanings are far less relevant than the broader vulnerabilities this scandal has exposed,” his written testimony read.
Among lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioning Wylie were Republican Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas. Both have operated campaigns that were Cambridge Analytica clients.…
Controversy around Cambridge Analytica’s alleged misuse of Facebook data raised a host of new questions about the social media giant’s role in the public discourse and elections, and helped prompt renewed scrutiny in Washington, where last month Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before committees in both houses of Congress.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Cambridge Analytica was under investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI.