Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie on Facebook, democracy and hope.
Christopher Wylie, of highlighter hair and Cambridge Analytica fame, was in Vancouver this week to talk about “Confronting the Disinformation Age.”
In 2018, Wylie blew the whistle on Facebook and consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, cofounded by Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon, for collecting data without users’ consent.
The extensive and personal data sets, Wylie said, were used to target people with political messaging that appealed to their specific psychologies.
“Fashion data was used to build AI models to help Steve Bannon build his insurgency and build the alt-right. And the alt-right is an insurgency,” he said in a presentation last November. “We used weaponized algorithms, we used weaponized cultural narratives to undermine people and undermine their perception of reality.”
He said the success of the targeting led to Donald Trump’s election win and the Brexit vote.
The Democracy Project wanted to know what the Victoria native had to say about democracy in Canada, and it shared this interview with The Tyee. Our interview was edited for clarity and length.
Zoë Ducklow: Who does democracy work for, and who is left out of the democratic process?
Christopher Wylie: Historically, democracy has worked for people who hold the power of information versus people who become recipients of information. Whether it’s elections or monarchs, the control of what’s allowed to be said or not said in the press has been the central aspect of power.
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