Cambridge Analytica’s (CA) use of data shouldn’t be surprising considering the idea that the powerful use people’s desires, concerns and fears to manipulate them for their own ideals has existed for as long as intelligence within humans. Why are people surprised that powerful companies would act in this way? Especially when there was a profit to be made. The simple truth is that most people and the ‘elite’ have known, but either benefitted from it or wilfully ignored the problem.

CA is a privately held company that combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process.

It was created in 2013 as an offshoot of its British parent company SCL Group to participate in American politics.

The art of manipulation

In 2016, the private company became involved in Donald Trump’s campaign and Leave.EU’s campaign during the EU referendum with criminal investigations ongoing for both. This is linked with how it has been using people’s personal data acquired from Facebook, without permission, the extent of which was revealed this week. Alexander Nix, the CEO whom has recently been suspended, boasted how they ran all of Trump’s digital campaigns that include possible illegal activities, as well as lauding over the use of prostitutes, bribery sting and "honey traps" to discredit politicians whom it conducts opposition research on with claims that the firm used proxy organisations to feed negative material about oppositions of the clients on Social media.

Furthermore, there are direct links with the Conservative Party with several party donors also holding shares in the company. Theresa May denied that the government have had anything to do with the firm, however, the Ministry of Defence previously held contracts with SCL, paying them £40,000 for "external training" in 2010/11 and £150,000 for "target audience analysis" in 2014/15, according to government documents.

SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, highlighted that a chairman of Oxford Conservative Association had run SCL, its founding chairman was a former Conservative MP, a director appears to have donated over £700,000 to the Tory party and a former Conservative party chairman is a shareholder.

Whether it has been British leaders use of nationalist rhetoric, Hitler, Mussolini or any other violent leadership, the use of information about people has always been a vital tool.

The ability to stir emotive feelings and use that to control how people vote is something that was vital for Churchill, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco or any other violent leadership. CA have just been infinitely cleverer and used capitalism’s economic fascism to perfection. This is just a modern version of this, with a more willing public to give up such personal information through social media.

#DeleteFacebook campaign

The campaign is absurd and it will only fuel the far-right rather than empower the left. Social media is often looked down at by previous generations and this has shown the dangers of the internet and social media. But campaigns such as these and companies such as CA and Facebook will further the cause of the far-right and the pursuit of censorship.

This will no doubt bring awkward questions and there will have to be a well thought out solution to stopping powerful companies manipulating data in this way again in the future but any social media or internet censorship will weaken the voices of populations and potentially create nationalists echo chambers.

The majority of the population get a lot of information from Facebook and as Another Angry Voice (AAV) pointed out, “the Analysis by The Guardian found that every single one of the 30 most viral political stories on Facebook during GE2017 was pro-Corbyn, anti-Tory, or both”. Furthermore, it was the left-leaning media sites such as The Canary, AAV and Evolve Politics that made a greater impact on social media than the fleet street mainstream.

Research has shown that most people do tend to have an echo chamber within their profiles. But removing it entirely, means you become reliant on the fleet street mainstream, such as the Daily Mail, Express, Telegraph, Financial Times, Daily Mirror, The Sun, Guardian etc. along with the publicly funded BBC.

They have all been known to lie or twist the truth, some more than others (Daily Mail being the worst offender and the Daily Mirror being the most truthful). Social media is a wonderful platform to spread information and it opens up many different sources than the ones previous generations have relied upon. The internet and social media is a powerful tool as proved by CA but boycotting them also weakens the population’s ability to combat manipulative companies such as these.