Cadwalladr (2017). The great British Brexit robbery: How our democracy was hijacked.

Cadwalladr, C. (2017, May 7). The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked. The Guardian. Retrieved from

“‘The connectivity that is the heart of globalisation can be exploited by states with hostile intent to further their aims. […] The risks at stake are profound and represent a fundamental threat to our sovereignty.’ — Alex Younger, head of MI6, December, 2016” (¶1) [Edit in original –oki]

“Psychological warfare? … ‘Totally. That’s what it is. Psyops. Psychological operations — the same methods the military use to effect mass sentiment change. It’s what they mean by winning ‘hearts and minds’. We were just doing it to win elections in the kind of developing countries that don’t have many rules.'” (¶5)

“To anyone concerned about surveillance, Palantir is practically now a trigger word. The data-mining firm has contracts with governments all over the world — including GCHQ and the NSA. It’s owned by Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of eBay and PayPal, who became Silicon Valley’s first vocal supporter of Trump.” (¶12)

“Eric Schmidt’s daughter showing up to make an introduction to Palantir is just another weird detail in the weirdest story I have ever researched.” (¶13)

“… it goes to the heart of why the story of Cambridge Analytica is one of the most profoundly unsettling of our time. Sophie Schmidt now works for another Silicon Valley megafirm: Uber. And what’s clear is that the power and dominance of the Silicon Valley — Google and Facebook and a small handful of others — are at the centre of the global tectonic shift we are currently witnessing.” (¶14)

“There are three strands to this story. How the foundations of an authoritarian surveillance state are being laid in the US. How British democracy was subverted through a covert, far-reaching plan of coordination enabled by a US billionaire. And how we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored. Whoever owns this data owns the future.” (¶16)

“… a strategic mission to smash the mainstream media and replace it with one comprising alternative facts, fake history and rightwing propaganda.” (¶19)

“… data and micro-targeting [individualised political messages] …” (¶31) [Edit in original — oki]

“SCL/Cambridge Analytica was not some startup created by a couple of guys with a Mac PowerBook. It’s effectively part of the British defence establishment. And, now, too, the American defence establishment.” (¶38)

“This is not just a story about social psychology and data analytics. It has to be understood in terms of a military contractor using military strategies on a civilian population. … David Miller, a professor of sociology at Bath University and an authority in psyops and propaganda, says it is ‘an extraordinary scandal that this should be anywhere near a democracy. It should be clear to voters where information is coming from, and if it’s not transparent or open where it’s coming from, it raises the question of whether we are actually living in a democracy or not.'” (¶39)

“… Cambridge Analytica … introduced mass data-harvesting to its psychological warfare techniques. ‘It brought psychology, propaganda and technology together in this powerful new way…'” (¶40)

“And it was Facebook that made it possible. It was from Facebook that Cambridge Analytica obtained its vast dataset in the first place. Earlier, psychologists at Cambridge University harvested Facebook data (legally) for research purposes and published pioneering peer-reviewed work about determining personality traits, political partisanship, sexuality and much more from people’s Facebook ‘likes’.” (¶41)

“Facebook was the source of the psychological insights that enabled Cambridge Analytica to target individuals. It was also the mechanism that enabled them to be delivered on a large scale.” (¶42)

Tamsin Shaw, an associate professor of philosophy at New York University … ‘The capacity for this science to be used to manipulate emotions is very well established. This is military-funded technology that has been harnessed by a global plutocracy and is being used to sway elections in ways that people can’t even see, don’t even realise is happening to them …'” (¶48)

“… this was a proposal to capture citizens’ browsing history en masse, recording phone conversations and applying natural language processing to the recorded voice data to construct a national police database, complete with scores for each citizen on their propensity to commit crime.” (¶52)

“In the US, the government is bound by strict laws about what data it can collect on individuals. But, for private companies anything goes.” (¶55)

“… AggegrateIQ … Canadian company … Their targeting was based on a set of technologies that hadn’t reached the UK yet. A lot of it was proprietary, they’d found a way of targeting people based on behavioural insights.” (¶83)

“This is Britain in 2017. A Britain that increasingly looks like a ‘managed’ democracy. Paid for a US billionaire. Using military-style technology. Delivered by Facebook.” (¶91)


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