- 79,00 kr
For the first time, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells the inside story of the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers.
“Mindf*ck demonstrates how digital influence operations, when they converged with the nasty business of politics, managed to hollow out democracies.”—The Washington Post
Mindf*ck goes deep inside Cambridge Analytica’s “American operations,” which were driven by Steve Bannon’s vision to remake America and fueled by mysterious billionaire Robert Mercer’s money, as it weaponized and wielded the massive store of data it had harvested on individuals—in excess of 87 million—to disunite the United States and set Americans against each other. Bannon had long sensed that deep within America’s soul lurked an explosive tension. Cambridge Analytica had the data to prove it, and in 2016 Bannon had a presidential campaign to use as his proving ground.
Christopher Wylie might have seemed an unlikely figure to be at the center of such an operation. Canadian and liberal in his politics, he was only twenty-four when he got a job with a London firm that worked with the U.K. Ministry of Defense and was charged putatively with helping to build a team of data scientists to create new tools to identify and combat radical extremism online. In short order, those same military tools were turned to political purposes, and Cambridge Analytica was born.
Wylie’s decision to become a whistleblower prompted the largest data-crime investigation in history. His story is both exposé and dire warning about a sudden problem born of very new and powerful capabilities. It has not only laid bare the profound vulnerabilities—and profound carelessness—in the enormous companies that drive the attention economy, it has also exposed the profound vulnerabilities of democracy itself. What happened in 2016 was just a trial run. Ruthless actors are coming for your data, and they want to control what you think.
In this impactful, if somewhat self-serving, debut, Wylie recounts his work for political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica and his decision to go public with evidence that the company illicitly harvested Facebook data to target U.S. and U.K voters. Wylie joined behavioral research company SCL Group in 2013 and helped to develop "microtargeting" tools to combat the spread of religious extremism online. After securing an investment from right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer, SCL Group formed a subsidiary, Cambridge Analytica, to apply its methodologies to American voters. Wylie describes the company's efforts to suppress African-American votes, elicit racist reactions to survey questions, and violate U.S. election laws restricting the types of work foreign nationals can do for political campaigns. By his own account, Wylie was detached from the real-world consequences of his job, but the "toxic" work environment and his qualms over the firm's "race projects" caused him to leave in 2014. Dismayed by then presidential candidate Donald Trump's use of phrases ("build the wall" and "drain the swamp") first tested by Cambridge Analytica, he decided to blow the whistle when he was contacted about the firm's role in the 2016 Brexit campaign. Wylie's analogies can be glib (as when he compares the rise of jihadism to the popularity of Crocs footwear), but his warning that the online and real worlds are now inextricable, and that "segregation rests at the heart of the architectures of the Internet" is frightening. This lucid call to action should make an impact.