UK journalist Carole Cadwalladr played a major role in exposing Facebook-Cambridge Analytica ties. In her recent TED talk, she eviscerates Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and the rest of Silicon Valley for deliberately interfering in the Brexit referendum, the 2016 Presidential election, and for being on the wrong side of history. She says they are “handmaids to authoritarianism.”
Facebook’s response to her talk was to get huffy and claim there were factual inaccuracies. But when challenged to say what the inaccuracies were, said nothing.
At the very least, Facebook and Zuckerberg are amoral, caring only about profits and not a whit about any damage they do. At worst, they were and are deliberately complicit in Brexit, Trump’s election, and Russia interference.
Cadwalladr went to a Welch town after Brexit won. People she talked with were sure immigrants were invading Wales and that the EU was horrible. Yet there are few immigrants in that town and the EU had just financed many new projects there.
So, why the disconnect?
Facebook ads, that’s why.
Many were financed with dirty hidden money, were sleazy and duplicitous, and used stolen data. These Facebook Brexit ad tactics were later used to elect Trump, with many of the same people involved. Yet Facebook pretends to know nothing about it as they stonewall releasing data about it.
And this entire [Brexit] referendum took place in darkness, because it took place on Facebook. And what happens on Facebook stays on Facebook, because only you see your news feed, and then it vanishes, so it’s impossible to research anything. So we have no idea who saw what ads or what impact they had, or what data was used to target these people. Or even who placed the ads, or how much money was spent, or even what nationality they were.
But Facebook does. Facebook has these answers, and it’s refused to give them to us. Our parliament has asked Mark Zuckerberg multiple times to come to Britain and to give us these answers. And every single time, he’s refused. And you have to wonder why. Because what I and other journalists have uncovered is that multiple crimes took place during the referendum. And they took place on Facebook.
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.
To Facebook and Silicon Valley:
And so my question to you is, is this what you want? Is this how you want history to remember you: as the handmaidens to authoritarianism that is on the rise all across the world? Because you set out to connect people. And you are refusing to acknowledge that the same technology is now driving us apart.
And my question to everybody else is, is this what we want: to let them get away with it, and to sit back and play with our phones, as this darkness falls?
And this is not a drill — it’s a point of inflection. Democracy is not guaranteed, and it is not inevitable, and we have to fight and we have to win and we cannot let these tech companies have this unchecked power. It’s up to us — you, me and all of us. We are the ones who have to take back control.
Either Silicon Valley comes clean about what happened and genuinely regulates itself or governments will do it for them. And hopefully will put some of them in prison for their obvious crimes.