Facebook’s Role in Brexit & The Threat to Democracy: Carole Cadwalladr (Transcript)

And with this illegal cash, “Vote Leave” unleashed a fire hose of disinformation. Ads like this.

[Turkey’s 76 million people joining the EU]

This is a lie, it’s a total lie. Turkey is not joining the European Union. There’s not even any discussions of it joining the European Union. And most of us, we never saw these ads, because we were not the target of them.

“Vote Leave” identified a tiny sliver of people who it identified as persuadable, and they saw them. And the only reason we are seeing these now is because parliament forced Facebook to hand them over.

And maybe you think, “Well, it was just a bit of overspending. It’s a few lies.”

But this was the biggest electoral fraud in Britain for 100 years. In a once-in-a-generation vote that hinged upon just one percent of the electorate. And it was just one of the crimes that took place in the referendum.

There was another group, which was headed by this man, Nigel Farage, the one to the right of Trump. And his group, “Leave.EU” — it also broke the law. It broke British electoral laws and British data laws, and it’s also being referred to the police.

And this man, Arron Banks, he funded this campaign. And in a completely separate case, he’s being referred to our National Crime Agency, our equivalent of the FBI, because our electoral commission has concluded they don’t know where his money came from. Or if it was even British.

And I’m not even going to go into the lies that Arron Banks has told about his covert relationship with the Russian government. Or the weird timing of Nigel Farage’s meetings with Julian Assange and with Trump’s buddy, Roger Stone, now indicted, immediately before two massive WikiLeaks dumps, both of which happened to benefit Donald Trump.

But I will tell you that Brexit and Trump were intimately entwined. This man told me that Brexit was the petri dish for Trump. And we know it’s the same people, the same companies, the same data, the same techniques, the same use of hate and fear. This is what they were posting on Facebook.

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And I don’t even want to call this a lie, [Immigration without assimilation equals invasion] because it feels more like a hate crime to me.

I don’t have to tell you that hate and fear are being sown online all across the world. Not just in Britain and America, but in France and in Hungary and Brazil and Myanmar and New Zealand. And we know there is this dark undertow which is connecting us all globally.

And it is flowing via the technology platforms. But we only see a tiny amount of what’s going on on the surface. And I only found out anything about this dark underbelly because I started looking into Trump’s relationship to Farage, into a company called Cambridge Analytica.

And I spent months tracking down an ex-employee, Christopher Wiley. And he told me how this company, that worked for both Trump and Brexit, had profiled people politically in order to understand their individual fears, to better target them with Facebook ads. And it did this by illicitly harvesting the profiles of 87 million people from Facebook.

It took an entire year’s work to get Christopher on the record. And I had to turn myself from a feature writer into an investigative reporter to do it. And he was extraordinarily brave, because the company is owned by Robert Mercer, the billionaire who bankrolled Trump, and he threatened to sue us multiple times, to stop us from publishing.

But we finally got there, and we were one day ahead of publication. We got another legal threat. Not from Cambridge Analytica this time, but from Facebook. It told us that if we publish, they would sue us. We did it anyway.

Facebook, you were on the wrong side of history in that. And you were on the wrong side of history in this — in refusing to give us the answers that we need. And that is why I am here.

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To address you directly, the gods of Silicon Valley. Mark Zuckerberg…and Sheryl Sandberg and Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Jack Dorsey, and your employees and your investors, too.

Because 100 years ago, the biggest danger in the South Wales coal mines was gas. Silent and deadly and invisible. It’s why they sent the canaries down first to check the air. And in this massive, global, online experiment that we are all living through, we in Britain are the canary.

We are what happens to a western democracy when a hundred years of electoral laws are disrupted by technology. Our democracy is broken, our laws don’t work anymore, and it’s not me saying this, it’s our parliament published a report saying this.

This technology that you have invented has been amazing. But now, it’s a crime scene. And you have the evidence. And it is not enough to say that you will do better in the future.

Because to have any hope of stopping this from happening again, we have to know the truth. And maybe you think, “Well, it was just a few ads. And people are smarter than that, right?”

To which I would say, “Good luck with that.” Because what the Brexit vote demonstrates is that liberal democracy is broken. And you broke it. This is not democracy — spreading lies in darkness, paid for with illegal cash, from God knows where. It’s subversion, and you are accessories to it.

Our parliament has been the first in the world to try to hold you to account, and it’s failed. You are literally beyond the reach of British law — not just British laws, this is nine parliaments, nine countries are represented here, who Mark Zuckerberg refused to come and give evidence to.

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