Cambridge Analytica chief suspended; Board promise independent investigation

Updated: The board of Cambridge Analytica has announced it has suspended chief executive Alexander Nix with immediate effect and promised a full investigation whose findings will be made public.

Alexander Nix

The board issued a statement announcing chief executive Alexander Nix has been suspended following an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News.

The statement said: "The board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect, pending a full, independent investigation.

"In the view of the Board, Mr Nix's recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.

"We have asked Dr Alexander Tayler to serve as acting CEO while an independent investigation is launched to review those comments and allegations.

"We have asked Julian Malins QC to lead this investigation, the findings of which the board will share publicly in due course.

"The board will be monitoring the situation closely, working closely with Dr Tayler, to ensure that Cambridge Analytica, in all of its operations, represents the firm's values and delivers the highest-quality service to its clients."

Alexander Nix left the Cambridge Analytica building at 6.30pm through a fire exit door.

He declined to answer questions as he got into a black Mercedes.

Heiko Khoo, 54, from London, put up posters at the offices of Cambridge Analytica showing Alexander Nix depicted behind bars with the caption: "Our data not his. Go straight to jail."

Mr Khoo said: "I lived in East Germany. This is my secret police file from the East Germans which shows they had a record of me.

"We used to be scared that the police were watching over us, but they were always just a few individuals. It wasn't like this type of spying.

"The spying these people are engaged in is the worst spying, the most ubiquitous spying in the history of the world, and they must be stopped."

The news comes as the controversy grows over secret recordings which captured the chief executive of the under-fire data firm boasting of the firm's pivotal role in securing US President Donald Trump's election victory.

Captured by a Channel 4 journalist posing as a fixer for a wealthy Sri Lankan family seeking to get candidates elected, Alexander Nix claims his firm ran "all" the elements of the Trump campaign.

He said: "We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy."

In the footage he reveals how his team used a self-destructing email system that leaves no trace.

He was recorded saying: "No-one knows we have it, and secondly we set our... emails with a self-destruct timer... So you send them and after they've been read, two hours later, they disappear.

"There's no evidence, there's no paper trail, there's nothing."

Mr Nix was also recorded explaining how Cambridge Analytica sets up proxy organisations to feed untraceable messages on to social media.

He mocks representatives on the US's House Intelligence Committee, to whom he gave evidence in 2017.

In the footage, he claims Republican members asked just three questions. "After five minutes - done."

He adds "They're politicians, they're not technical. They don't understand how it works," and claims that Democrats on the Committee are motivated by "sour grapes".

He further claims the firm could avoid any US investigation into its foreign clients, saying: "I'm absolutely convinced that they have no jurisdiction... We'll say none of your business."

Mr Nix also states that the candidates are never told what is going on, agreeing that they are "puppets" in the hands of their campaign team.

The meetings involved Mr Nix, along with Mark Turnbull who is managing director of Cambridge Analytica's Political Global division, and Dr Alex Tayler, the company's chief data scientist.

They were recorded discussing their two-pronged approach to campaigning, such as putting out positive messages through the official Donald Trump campaign, while negative material was put out through other organisations.

Dr Tayler says: "Campaigns are normally subject to limits about how much money they can raise. Whereas outside groups can raise an unlimited amount.

"So the campaign will use their finite resources for things like persuasion and mobilisation and then they leave the 'air war' they call it, like the negative attack ads to other affiliated groups."

The company states that their work with data and research allowed Mr Trump to win with a narrow margin of "40,000 votes" in three states providing victory in the electoral college system, despite losing the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.

During a separate meeting, Mr Turnbull describes how, along with the official Trump campaign, the company created the "Defeat Crooked Hilary" brand of attack ads.

He said the ads were funded by the Make America Number 1 super-PAC and watched more than 30 million times during the campaign.

In an interview with defeated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, which was filmed in 2017 while promoting her book, she described facing "a massive propaganda effort".

She said: "So you've got CA, you've got the Republican National Committee which of course has always done data collection and analysis and you've got the Russians.

"And the real question is how did the Russians know how to target their messages so precisely to undecided voters in Wisconsin or Michigan or Pennsylvania - that is really the nub of the question.

"So if they were getting advice from say Cambridge Analytica or someone else about OK here are the 12 voters in this town in Wisconsin - that's whose Facebook pages you need to be on to send these messages that indeed would be very disturbing."

She also questioned whether Cambridge Analytica was involved in Russia's alleged attempt to influence the election - something the company strongly denies.

- Digital Desk and Press Association

 

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