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Dark Money Deep Data programme notes

Tim Dawson photo
Tim Dawson
Dark Money Deep Data programme notes
Shadowy billionaires are using targeted social-media ads to undermine democracy. This podcast assembled pioneering investigators to reveal all.

Dark Money Deep Data (20 September 2017) brought together journalists who have illuminated some of modern politics’ murkiest corners. This podcast is based on a recording of that event.

The contributors include writers who have uncovered the secret funding that was channeled through Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to provide vast funds for Leave campaigners during the Brexit referendum. They have established clear connections between wholesale voter targeting on social media and the US far right. And they have cast new light on: Russia’s role as the international cleaning house of illegally-traded data; commercial hate-bot capability; and weaponised info wars.

The timings below indicate when each contributor to the podcast starts speaking.  

02.20 Business consultant and cultural commentator Peter York set the scene explaining how advertisers have long sought to understand consumer behaviour the better to segment markets and target messaging. The Hidden Persuaders of Vance Packard’s expose were charmingly clueless compared with today’s marketeers, York suggested. Now, by analysing individuals Facebook ‘likes’, companies such as Cambridge Analytica are quickly able to predict the behaviour of individuals better than their spouses.

16.00 Carole Cadwalladr, a features writer on The Observer, has published a series of articles revealing the secret links between and the Vote Leave campaigns and their connections to the US billionaire Robert Mercer. Her interest in this area was sparked, in part, by conversations with US academic Jonathan Albright. Hilary Clinton acknowledged her work recently. Cadwalladr has also revealed how the alt-right has 'gamed' Google's algorithms to promote race hate as well as uncovering Cambridge Analytica work for – which sparked enquires by the Data Commissioner and the Electoral Commissioner. She has even purposefully Twitter baited Vote Leave’s Dominic Cummings.

29.30 Mary Fitzgerald, Open Democracy’s editor-in-chief, managed the team behind her platform’s revelations that the DUP spent more money campaigning for a leave vote in Great Britain than they ever had on an election in Northern Ireland. She also spoke about uncovering the teenager who was mysteriously gifted £675,000 to run a youth-directed leave campaign, as well as casting a little light on the work of the shadowy pressure groups the Constitutional Research Council and the European Reseach Councils. 

38.45 James Patrick, whose book Alternative War was launched at the event, spoke about the links between European far-right political parties and Russia – such as Marine Le Pen, who was loaned £9.5m by a Russian bank that subsequently folded. He described the linguistic commonalities in social media alt-right campaigning in both Britain and the US, and Russian investment in targeted Facebook advertising, which is now being investigated in the US by the Mueller enquiry. He also mentioned the notorious 'David Jones' Twitter account, the malign influence of the Russian fascist Alexander Dugin; the HBGary hackEU versus Disinfo, the EU communications team charged with dealing with fake news, and how Prison Planet inspired a trip to Sweden. 

All photos copyright: Tim Dawson. Top montage: Mary Fitzgerald, James Patrick, Carole Cadwalladr and Peter York. Bottom picture, Peter Jukes.

#Social-media profiling, #Electoral fraud, #Cambridge Anylitica, #Secret funding, #Brexit