Reports that the Information Commissioner’s Office will be investigating the use of people’s personal data during elections within the UK, comes after the Observer reported that Robert Mercer and his company helped shape the electoral result in the EU referendum in favour of the Leave Vote. Mercer, friends with Nigel Farage, introduced the man and the leave campaign to Cambridge Analytica, a computer firm that analysed people’s liking habits on Facebook, as well as their private data online, to pitch targeted adverts toward them to shift them to voting for leaving the EU. Aarons Banks is quoted by The Guardian as saying ““world class” AI had helped them gain “unprecedented levels of engagement”. “AI won it for Leave,” yet when the company itself was asked for comment, they declined, and then subsequently issued a statement saying that they had not had any part in the electoral process. Politico states that the Leave Campaign did not file any donation from the company-though talk from the leaders of the campaign states that they did- thus raising ethical questions.
This seems to have been hushed over in the euphoria for the Leave Campaign in achieving their desired outcome. Yet the boasts in recent weeks and months since the election of Donald Trump have put them under deep scrutiny, hence the intervention of the Information Commissioner’s Office. Denials by Cambridge Analytica that they had any involvement with the Leave Campaign, despite word to the contrary from leading Leave members, raises eyebrows. Is it possible that now the dust has settled, the law might be coming for them, and they are trying to desperately cover their tracks? Certainly the feeling of public outcry against such a thing might well be muted.
Some of the snapshots of comments on the articles by The Guardian and Politico include: ‘Another, and another, so it goes on. Will the Remainers never admit defeat.
Most people who decided to vote Leave, were unaffected by the Referendum, and had made up their minds, years ago! This was because since the EU, we have been bled, by a profligate over expanded Bloc, run by ambitious self serving politicians.’ and ‘You Lost ………..’ as well as ‘ A point of interest to commenters here. If you want to receive a lot of upvotes, put in the most absurd comments possible. I have noticed that if you blame Billionaires you will receive huge validation. So try Trillionaires – see how that goes. Brexiters are racists, xenophobes gets a lot of upvotes. Try nazi’s, or cannibals. Recently, “brain dead children of Satan” worked well. I would like to offer something more extreme but I think that is pretty much off the scale of civility and sanity.’
These comments are just three of around four thousand on the article, some of which express outrage that a billionaire and a tech firm could have manipulated the referendum and that the Leave Campaign did not disclose their help. Other comments disparage the article, and the concerns expressed by other commentators. It appears as though the commentators who disparage those raising perfectly valid questions about whether or not the use of Cambridge Analytica was legal, do not really care that the democracy that many within the UK hold so dear, was impeded upon or even violated. It seems, that they care more about pointing out that the people raising concerns, are merely ‘remoaners’ who can’t get over the fact that they ‘lost’ the referendum. The clear point that voters had their data used against their consent for political purposes does not seem to bother them.
This writer must ask, if the referendum had gone the other way, and it was later found that remain had used voter data in the same way as leave, would these same commentators be so blasé about it all? Would papers such as the Daily Mail, or Breitbart be ignoring the connections as they are doing now? One thinks not. This writer thinks that the hypocrisy of democracy is showing through once more, the flaws are there for all to see, but one must wonder when it will be clear to all. The system is broken, and change needs to be made.