Senior executives at Cambridge Analytica have been caught on camera claiming they could bribe politicians, entrap them with sex workers, or use ex-spies to dig dirt on political opponents and then post any damaging material online.
Three members of the London-based data firm were covertly recorded by journalists for the UK’s Channel 4 News at a series of meetings at London hotels over four months, between November 2017 and January 2018.
The company’s Chief Executive, Alexander Nix, was filmed bragging of his firm’s secret influence in elections around the world, sometimes by operating through a web of shadowy front companies, or by using sub-contractors
The company is at the centre of explosive claims that it harvested the data of up to 50 million Facebook profiles, information which was allegedly used during the 2016 US presidential election, in contravention of Facebook policy.
In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, Nix said the firm could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.
In another exchange he said: “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet.”
On Sunday the firm was reported to be “scrambling” to stop the broadcast using legal means, but on Monday Channel 4 News sources confirmed the broadcast would go ahead as planned.
Speaking after the show aired, Washington Correspondent for Channel 4 News, Kylie Morris, told HuffPost UK of the difficulties in combatting companies like Cambridge Analytica.
She said: “There is a fear that in this data-analytic field, which is a very difficult thing to trace, the regulators are rushing to catch up to try and keep a lid on or at least understand the reach of these companies and what they’re capable of.”
On Monday, a Cambridge Analytica spokesman told Channel 4 News: “We entirely refute any allegation that Cambridge Analytica or any of its affiliates use entrapment, bribes, or so-called ‘honey-traps’ for any purpose whatsoever…”
They said: “Cambridge Analytica does not use untrue material for any purpose.”
They insisted that opposition research and intelligence gathering, the use of subcontractors, working discreetly with clients and the use of encrypted communications are all common practice and legitimate.