While President Trump is stewing in DC and a second whistleblower has come forward with Republicans threatening to expose his/her identity (reminding us all why credible whistleblower reports must be confidential and investigated), Congressman Adam Schiff hosted a screening of the documentary “The Great Hack” in Hollywood Sunday. It’s all about the firm Cambridge Analytica and their role in not only the 2016 US election, but Brexit and elections in other parts of the world.
The film’s hook is that data has surpassed oil as the world most valuable asset. It covered how Facebook, other social media platforms, and Cambridge Analytica weaponized this data to wage political warfare. And oddly enough, it took a whistleblower who was an executive at the company to help bring it down along with a digital media professor who sued the firm to find out what personal data the firm had in him.
The documentary says that today, we have 5,000 data points that paint a psychological profile of each of us which the firm used to target what they say are “persuadables” which are bombarded with targeted ads and messages (of which accuracy is questionable at best). In 15 years, experts suggest there will be 20,000 data points on each individual. The end result is it is possible we might never have a fair election ever again.
After the flick, there was a panel discussion featuring Schiff, UK investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr from the Guardian and Observer in London, producer Pedro Kos and moderator Patricia Arquette, an Oscar winner for “Boyhood” that lasted a good hour.
Schiff didn’t dwell on impeachment proceedings and the inquiry so much as he did the film, seeking a remedy for legislation on who is paying for ads on social media, which isn’t regulated like broadcast media is currently. An interesting fact that popped out; during the 2016 campaign, the Trump campaign spend $1 million a day on Facebook ads generating millions and millions of impressions, while the Clinton campaign only bought 66,000 Facebook ads.
The CA whistleblower, Brittany Kaiser, was an operative for the 2008 Obama campaign. Why move to the Trump campaign or the Republican side instead of Hillary Clinton? She said Obama or Clinton wouldn’t pay her for her work. The Republicans did.
The documentary was introduced by legendary Hollywood producer Norman Lear and his wife Lyn, who served as a producer for the documentary. Lear is a founder and major contributor for People for the American Way.
The documentary is on Netflix. There are a host of sites you can watch it for free. I take issue with the notion Cambridge Analytica committed a great Hack. Users give this information to social media platforms willingly. These big data companies simply analyze the data and develop targeted communications messages that tend to sway those who are undecided to action or inaction. So it’s really weaponizing social media. If the real world isn’t your bag, read the novel #FlashMob by former Orange County Register reporter Chris Farnsworth about a hacker who can read minds who tries to protect people against weaponized social media efforts that are violent and deadly.