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For the first time, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells the inside story of the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers. Mindf*ck goes deep inside Cambridge Analytica's "American operations," which were driven by Steve Ban For the first time, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells the inside story of the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers. Mindf*ck goes deep inside Cambridge Analytica's "American operations," which were driven by Steve Bannon's vision to remake America and fueled by mysterious billionaire Robert Mercer's money, as it weaponized and wielded the massive store of data it had harvested on individuals in--excess of 87 million--to disunite the United States and set Americans against each other through psychological manipulation. Bannon had long sensed that deep within America's soul lurked an explosive tension. Cambridge Analytica had the data to prove it, and in 2016 Bannon had a presidential campaign to use as his proving ground. Christopher Wylie might have seemed an unlikely figure to be at the center of such an operation. Canadian and liberal in his politics, he was only twenty-four when he got a job with a London firm that worked with the U.K. Ministry of Defense and was charged putatively with helping to build a team of data scientists to create new tools to identify and combat radical extremism online. In short order, those same military tools were turned to political purposes, and Cambridge Analytica was born. Wylie's decision to become a whistleblower prompted the largest data crime investigation in history. His story is both exposé and dire warning about a sudden problem born of very new and powerful capabilities. It has not only exposed the profound vulnerabilities and profound carelessness in the enormous companies that drive the attention economy, it has also exposed the profound vulnerabilities of democracy itself. What happened in 2016 was just a trial run. Ruthless actors are coming for your data, and they want to control what you think.


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For the first time, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells the inside story of the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers. Mindf*ck goes deep inside Cambridge Analytica's "American operations," which were driven by Steve Ban For the first time, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells the inside story of the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers. Mindf*ck goes deep inside Cambridge Analytica's "American operations," which were driven by Steve Bannon's vision to remake America and fueled by mysterious billionaire Robert Mercer's money, as it weaponized and wielded the massive store of data it had harvested on individuals in--excess of 87 million--to disunite the United States and set Americans against each other through psychological manipulation. Bannon had long sensed that deep within America's soul lurked an explosive tension. Cambridge Analytica had the data to prove it, and in 2016 Bannon had a presidential campaign to use as his proving ground. Christopher Wylie might have seemed an unlikely figure to be at the center of such an operation. Canadian and liberal in his politics, he was only twenty-four when he got a job with a London firm that worked with the U.K. Ministry of Defense and was charged putatively with helping to build a team of data scientists to create new tools to identify and combat radical extremism online. In short order, those same military tools were turned to political purposes, and Cambridge Analytica was born. Wylie's decision to become a whistleblower prompted the largest data crime investigation in history. His story is both exposé and dire warning about a sudden problem born of very new and powerful capabilities. It has not only exposed the profound vulnerabilities and profound carelessness in the enormous companies that drive the attention economy, it has also exposed the profound vulnerabilities of democracy itself. What happened in 2016 was just a trial run. Ruthless actors are coming for your data, and they want to control what you think.

30 review for Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America

  1. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ READ THIS: My pick for best non-fiction, true crime, psychological thriller - ever! Can't believe I wrote so much and didn't once mention Steve Bannon, who is the one who thought to turn this research into psychological warfare. “I don’t know what else to say other than I was more naïve than I thought I was at the time. . . When I joined SCL, I was there to help the firm explore areas like counter-radicalisation in order to help Britain, America and their allies defend themselves against new th 5★ READ THIS: My pick for best non-fiction, true crime, psychological thriller - ever! Can't believe I wrote so much and didn't once mention Steve Bannon, who is the one who thought to turn this research into psychological warfare. “I don’t know what else to say other than I was more naïve than I thought I was at the time. . . When I joined SCL, I was there to help the firm explore areas like counter-radicalisation in order to help Britain, America and their allies defend themselves against new threats emerging online.” Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time. How was ISIS attracting recruits? How could we good guys find out who was a likely target so we could counteract whatever was pushing them towards those bad guys and militant jihadism? Of course it was a good idea. We’ve all done it. Even as a child, you learn to wait till a grown-up is in a good mood before you ask for a treat. As you get older, you get more manipulative. You put someone in a good mood before asking for a favour. So it’s still a good idea. But – there’s always a but – when this eclectic bunch of people were gathered together to figure out what information they needed, how to collect it, and what to do with it, most of them had no idea that it could be used to change voting behaviour. . . . “Facebook’s data was weaponised by the firm, and . . . the systems they built left millions of Americans vulnerable to the propaganda operations of hostile foreign states.” That’s the word – weaponised. Basically, we’ve all shot ourselves in the proverbial foot, because we were silly enough to believe that rules about privacy were real and that laws could be enforced. So we connected, shared only with Friends of Friends of Friends, or whatever list you chose. YOU chose. Private? Yeah, right. “Social media herds the citizenry into surveilled* spaces where the architects can track and classify them and use this understanding to influence their behaviour. If democracy and capitalism are based on accessible information and free choice, what we are witnessing is their subversion from the inside.” *[The asterisk is mine. ‘Surveilled’ is ‘watched’, in case you weren’t aware that in the US, they’ve made a verb from the noun ‘surveillance’.] Of course we knew Facebook watched what we did so they could put all the right ads up on our pages. Same with Google and other search engines. Personal note. (view spoiler)[[When I get tired of seeing ads for anti-arthritis tips or veterinary supplies (see, now you know I’m achy and have a dog), I start doing a few searches for tours to scenic places – mountains, oceans, outback – and hey presto! My pages start showing me nice travel photos instead of flea treatment. But I digress.] (hide spoiler)] I don’t mean to make light of this. I have always said anything you put online you should be prepared to see posted on your front door or on the front page of the newspaper. It’s a way to remember to moderate yourself. But like the author, I didn’t figure on a company collecting everyone’s prejudices and hate and putting it all together to post propaganda to foment a general rebellion. It’s one thing when peasants and serfs rebel against the nobility. They have a common cause about injustice. What Cambridge Analytica did was convince everybody who had a gripe about anything at all that it was the fault of “the system”, so the solution was to “break the system”. Of course, the result is a void which squillionaires and oligarchs are quick to fill. POWER! They ran focus groups everywhere, finding out what people were upset about. They did this across Africa, Trinidad, and the tentacles spread further and further. The fact that everyone’s complaint is not the same, doesn’t matter. In face, conflicting complaints don’t even matter. This came from a focus group in Louisiana. “A man named Lloyd, speaking with a Cajun accent that Gettleson found almost indecipherable, came across loud and clear in venting his disgust that the schools in his parish no longer taught his native French. He was furious that his granddaughter was being denied the chance to learn the ‘culture and heritage’ of her Cajun forebears. It wasn’t fifteen minutes before the same man launched into a rant about Latinos, how even in America they wouldn’t stop speaking Spanish. Somehow, no one in the group saw the disconnect.” A personal note. (view spoiler)[A politician friend once said, about holding a public meeting, to let the public speak first to say what their issues are. It’s possible you will bring up something they haven’t even thought to worry about (and that you might rather they didn’t), and he was right. If there's a disconnect, don't point it out. (hide spoiler)] So they know the Cajun man’s soft spot – Latinos. Absolutely compelling reading. You know those students who seem to highlight so much that entire pages are yellow? I wasn’t one of them. I tend to highlight some key words or passages, because if too much is marked, nothing stands out. Well, this is one book that would be all yellow! Everyone should be aware of what has happened. I will let Chris’s quotes give you an idea of the rest of the story. It’s a terrific book, and a story that’s hard to believe. Just because it’s possible to create something that is world-beatingly powerful doesn’t mean you should. Personal note. (view spoiler)[My brother, a thoughtful kid of few words, used to ask our father now and then “Hey, Pop . . . couldn’t a guy. . . ?” and he would suggest some devious scheme or other Pop would admit was indeed possible. Fortunately for everybody, he didn’t turn to crime but became a well-respected scientist instead and discovered some good stuff. Whew! (hide spoiler)] The author wanders back and forth between his early days in Canada and today, and early days in England and then back to today, which can get confusing. But it’s necessary, because the different threads of his interests and connections are what made his part in the puzzle unique. He was the one who understood how to make things work – for the better, he’d hoped, but it was really the challenge that hooked him. Fascinating stuff. Thanks to NetGalley and Serpent’s Tail/Profile Books for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted so much both above and below. “I provided evidence tying Cambridge Analytica to Donald Trump, Facebook, Russian intelligence, international hackers and Brexit." . . . “Although Cambridge Analytica was created as a business, I learned later that it was never intended to make money. The firm’s sole purpose was to cannibalise the Republican Party and remould American culture.” . . . “Soon enough, having perfected its methods far from the attention of western media [influencing African elections], CA shifted from instigating tribal conflict in Africa to instigating tribal conflict in America.” . . . “The world of psychological warfare of which SCL was a part has been around for as long as humans have waged war. In the sixth century BC, Persians of the Achaemenid, knowing that Egyptians worshipped the cat god Bastet, drew images of cats on their shields so the Egyptians would be reluctant to take aim at them in battle.” . . . “I told myself that truly learning about society includes delving into uncomfortable questions about our darker sides. How could we understand racial bias, authoritarianism or misogyny if we did not explore them? What I did not appreciate is the fine line between exploring something and actually creating it.” HERE IS HOW YOU GET GOD INVOLVED: “CA then discovered that for those with evangelical worldviews in particular, a ‘just world’ exists because God rewards people with success if they follow his rules. In other words, people who live good lives won’t get pre-existing conditions, and they will succeed in life, even if they are black. Cambridge Analytica began feeding these cohorts narratives with an expanded religious valence. ‘God is fair and just, right? Wealthy people are blessed by God for a reason, right? Because He is fair. If minorities complain about receiving less, perhaps there is a reason – because He is fair. Or are you daring to question God?’ THIS HAS BEEN ME. YOU, TOO? “We are socialised to place trust in our institutions – our government, our police, our schools, our regulators. It’s as if we assume there’s some guy with a secret team of experts sitting in an office with a plan, and if that plan doesn’t work, don’t worry, he’s got a plan B and a plan C – someone in charge will take care of it. But in truth, that guy doesn’t exist. If we choose to wait, nobody will come.” - - - - - - - - - the end- - - - - - - - - of the world as we thought we knew it But wait - there's more! 5 January 2020 "Fresh Cambridge Analytica leak ‘shows global manipulation is out of control’ Company’s work in 68 countries laid bare with release of more than 100,000 documents" https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carole

    Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America by Christopher Wylie is a cautionary tale about politics, Steve Bannon, Big Data and how to set Americans against one another and the whole thing brought to you by a twenty-four-year-old Canadian whistleblower. This is a classic case of food for thought and this book should be read before the next election.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Trudie

    This book gets my five stars, simply by opening my eyes to the idea of data as a commodity. The title could not be more apt, the reading experience was a total Mindf*uck and I really feel strongly this should be a compulsory read for those seeking to understand the dark nexus of politics and social media.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alok Vaid-Menon

    This book blew my mind. With the devastating election news from the UK and the rise of bigotry across the world, it is crucial to understand the role of social media. The contest over data in the digital realm is the new playing field where elections and ideologies are made and mapped, and yet these machinations are invisibilized. It has become possible to create an “artificial society,” one in which strangers can hold puppet strings of people across the globe – algorithms do not just structure This book blew my mind. With the devastating election news from the UK and the rise of bigotry across the world, it is crucial to understand the role of social media. The contest over data in the digital realm is the new playing field where elections and ideologies are made and mapped, and yet these machinations are invisibilized. It has become possible to create an “artificial society,” one in which strangers can hold puppet strings of people across the globe – algorithms do not just structure our online experience, but also redefine our very existence offline. Things are not broken, they are working as they were designed: the maintenance of a coalition between conservative politicians and the private sector to monopolize power. The agenda is not new, but with social media the strategy and the scale of it surpasses the frameworks we currently have. This is why whistleblowers like Christopher Wylie and Shahmir Sanni are so important. They demystify the natural and expose the materiality of artifice, showing how reality is the product of decisions made by people in power. In this book Wylie takes us behind the scenes of the Cambridge Analytica (CA) scandal. At times reading felt surreal like science fiction – but then I realized the substance of today is precisely that. “Real life” has become a video game. Here are some important takeaways. It is misleading to dismiss conservatives like Bannon as ignorant, they are well studied in critical theory and understand how to persuade alienated people toward extremist ideology. They understand what many progressives continue to dismiss: peoples’ politics are informed not necessarily by reason or self-interest, but rather by what people feel and what people look like. By using personality models, fashion brands, etc. CA was able to predict people’s political lives and target content/ads accordingly. They began this first in the Global South (digital colonialism) and then brought these methods to the West where they worked to fester dissent just as effectively. Slogans, images and videos were targeted to create and reinforce racial stereotypes and create a national-mirage such that so many were literally seeing different countries. Facebook ads meant that the evidence of this deception was erased and largely unaccounted for. Optics were manipulated to misdirect blame (to the immigrants, the Muslims, etc), build racist solidarities and galvanize support for candidates and policies. Social media companies are directly responsible for enabling and facilitating this. Wylie calls for holding social media companies accountable, fighting for the right to privacy, and a new code of conduct, ethics + regulation for the digital age.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    Just... read this book. And then walk through the world. You won't be the same.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Woman Reading

    5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 A Billionaire and Russia Hack Democracy Christopher Wylie's Mindf*ck is a must read for anybody interested in recent national political events and /or the intersection of social media, big data, and cultural undercurrents. Wylie recounts a complicated multi national tale of how one billionaire created Cambridge Analytica to be a psychological warfare tool wielded by an international ultra-conservative political movement. ... our identities and behavior have become commodities 5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 A Billionaire and Russia Hack Democracy Christopher Wylie's Mindf*ck is a must read for anybody interested in recent national political events and /or the intersection of social media, big data, and cultural undercurrents. Wylie recounts a complicated multi national tale of how one billionaire created Cambridge Analytica to be a psychological warfare tool wielded by an international ultra-conservative political movement. ... our identities and behavior have become commodities in the high - stakes data trade. The companies which control the flow of information are among the most powerful in the world. Wylie had worked for political parties in both his home country of Canada and in the U.K. prior to joining the SCL Group in London in the fall of 2013. The U.K. military hired SCL when it wanted plausible deniability as SCL conducted psychological and influence operations anywhere in the world. SCL' s resume included disinformation campaigns to mitigate jihadist recruitment efforts in Pakistan and decrease narcotics and other illegal trafficking in South America. The SCL director Alexander Nix was more of an amoral salesperson than someone who knew how to run the actual nuts and bolts of any operation. Nonetheless, Nix wanted SCL to dominate the propaganda trade. In his prior work on election campaigns, Wylie knew the value of acquiring massive amounts of data and, more importantly, the ways to improve SCL's arcane inefficiencies. SCL had been retained by the Trinidad Ministry of National Security, so Nix assigned the small Trinidad and Tobago nation as the pilot project site for Wylie's team. With illegally routed government funds and carte blanche, real time access to their citizenry's mobile internet usage, Wylie's team was able to collect sufficient data to develop artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that could predict behavior. The Trinidad Ministry's initial objective was to look for criminals, but the pilot project's success could be expanded to apply to their elections. Steve Bannon had been dangling the prospect of millions of investment dollars to SCL and Nix for some time. Wylie presented to Bannon the Trinidad project, showing that cultural trends could be quantified and predicted. At the minimum, the collected data included basic demographics such as sex, age, and ethnicity, internet browsing usage, census tract information, and social media profiles. Bannon was excited by the fact that all of this data was available for identifiable individuals (i.e. not aggregated which would provide privacy to the individuals). Bannon wanted Wylie's team to replicate the Trinidad project for the entire USA but first tested the team with a trial run in Virginia in October 2013. Convinced of SCL's capabilities, Bannon then introduced SCL to his principal, billionaire Robert Mercer, in November 2013. Mercer invested $15 million for a 90 percent stake in the newly created Cambridge Analytica (C.A.). SCL would be C.A.'s parent company and own 10 percent. Convoluted legal ties were created so that C.A., a U.S. subsidiary, would use staff and resources of the British SCL and SCL could continue its work for the British military. Wylie initially believed that Mercer's interest in C.A. was purely financial. But Wylie eventually realized that deeply held political beliefs were behind Mercer and Bannon's objectives for C.A. Every system [a computer, a network, even society] has weaknesses waiting to be exploited. Mercer had articulated a desire to replicate a society in silico - to model a society down to its silicone replications of real people so that the model could run simulations and make forecasts. As the first step, Wylie believed that a true study of the USA would be similar to examining tribal conflicts. To eliminate bias, non - American sociologists and anthropologists conducted focus group research in order to map American rituals, superstitions, mythologies, and ethnic tensions. In 2014, Wylie characterized the USA as a nation nearing a nervous breakdown. Clinical psychologists are held to the primary medical principle of "do no harm." But C.A. was not constrained any iota in their use of applied psychology. C.A. discovered Americans' hot button issues of religion, gun use, immigration, and race / ethnicity and targeted these as future weaknesses to exploit. The next step was for C.A. to acquire data so they could identify who should receive their tailored messages. A competitor firm, Palantir, had observed: Facebook had the potential to be the best discreet surveillance tool imaginable for the National Security Agency. In June 2014, C.A. deployed a Trojan horse in order to scrape Facebook user information. This came disguised as a personality test app that offered a payment of $1 - $2 for the test completion and which needed to be run on Facebook's platform. Within two months, less than 300,000 Facebook users completed the personality test on this app. But thanks to Facebook's vast permissiveness, any user of the app would not only have their profile and usage stats but also all their friends' data scraped, collected, and organized by the Trojan horse app. This is how C.A. obtained information on 87 million Facebook users by August 2014. This wasn't all. To put the "big" in big data, C.A. used AI to combine individual Facebook users with additional database information they had purchased. In the end, C.A. had created complete dossiers which also contained data on a Facebook user's kids, schools, employment, income, mortgage, phone numbers, online shopping, and photos. This is not a complete list. And more importantly, C.A. also knew them by personality because AI algorithms could make a good prediction even for the friends who had not completed the personality test. From a 2015 research paper, a well- designed AI computer model could predict an individual's behavior better than that person's co-worker (with 10 likes on social media), family member (with 150 likes), or their own spouse (with 300 likes). Bannon had earlier observed that "there is no force more powerful than a humiliated man" and Bannon leveraged that to launch his cultural war. Bannon focused on "incels" (involuntary celibates) who displayed what Wylie labeled "the dark triad" traits. These are maladaptive traits that increase the likelihood of committing crimes or other antisocial behavior: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. C.A. identified persons with the dark triad traits and neuroticism because they would be susceptible to conspiracy theories and impulsive bursts of anger. C.A. filled their Facebook newsfeed with articles that would provoke strong emotional reactions. C.A. exploited humans' adaptive mechanism of noticing the horrible as it would increase the chances of survival against threats. As users "liked" these articles, it confirmed whether they actually fit Bannon's target group. C.A. would then start to fill their newsfeed with fake pages of news, forums, and groups to foster a sense of community among the incels and their supporters. Once sufficient numbers in an area were attained, it was time to arrange a physical meeting in real life. C.A. had employed SCL' s international counter - insurgency tactics on Americans to foster Bannon's alt - right movement. Wylie's discomfort and misgivings could no longer be rationalized away. He quit C.A. around the end of 2014. But Wylie maintained contact with his team members and other politically placed people in the U.K. Mindf*ck continued with a description of the ultra conservative movement and C.A.'s role in the Brexit campaign and assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016. Through his colleagues' information, Wylie pieced together the Russian influence amd C.A.'s impact on the 2016 American presidential election. Whistleblowing by Wylie and two friends on C.A. erupted onto the public stage in March 2018 and led to massive international investigations. Our system is broken. Our laws don't work. Our regulators are weak. Our governments don't understand what's happening. Our technology is usurping democracy. Wylie concludes Mindf*ck with his suggestions for regulation. Although I don't agree with everything Wylie writes in this section, I strongly agree that some legal action must be taken. Like Wylie, I just don't know what. In the descriptions of psychological warfare in particular, Mindf*ck left me feeling emotionally exhausted. In fact, this book generated my own "dark triad" feelings: dismayed, discouraged, and dumbfounded. And I've never even been a Facebook user; in which instance, I would most likely feel much worse. Have no doubts, Wylie's account of democracy being hacked is not over. (view spoiler)[ Cambridge Analytica and SCL may be defunct, but yet remnants live on. The Mercer family and some former SCL personnel are now behind Emerdata Limited, which has been paying the legal fees for SCL and C.A. Many other former SCL personnel have dispersed to new data consulting firms so SCL' s psy-ops methods can be perpetuated. (hide spoiler)] Read Mindf*ck if you don't want to drown in the denial of reality.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    If you're looking to understand Cambridge Analytica, datamining and their inextricable link with contemporary politics you could probably do a lot worse than this book, where you get the story straight from the (proverbial) horse's mouth. Chris Wylie worked at CA, so has all the intel on how the company excelled to have the wield it did. If I was rating purely on the importance of the topic this would get five stars, easily. But that's not how I rate books, unfortunately, and I struggled with a f If you're looking to understand Cambridge Analytica, datamining and their inextricable link with contemporary politics you could probably do a lot worse than this book, where you get the story straight from the (proverbial) horse's mouth. Chris Wylie worked at CA, so has all the intel on how the company excelled to have the wield it did. If I was rating purely on the importance of the topic this would get five stars, easily. But that's not how I rate books, unfortunately, and I struggled with a few things here. Firstly the tone - it was overly chatty and familiar at times, which is something which (unless done well, and it rarely is) turns me off. Personal preference, maybe, but I also didn't particularly like the tone: Wylie has a story to tell, sure, but he often gets overly defensive about his role in proceedings, how he overlooked or didn't fully understand what was going on in the company, how he stayed longer than he perhaps should've... but I didn't buy it. This overly defensive tone just made me less convinced of his candor. Despite my misgivings, I think a lot of readers will love this expose on how the people of the US (and a number of other nations) were treated like one big, sick psychological experiment. Thank you Netgalley and Serpent's Tail / Profile Books for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patwm

    This book details the efforts of Cambridge analytica, Steve Bannon, the Mercer’s and Russian intelligence to influence the 2016 U.S. elections and the U. K. Brexit vote. The writer worked for the company and became a whistleblower. Everybody should read this account which rings true and begs the question why did they all get away with it? Why hasn’t anyone one of the principal players gone to jail? Big data and tech companies like Facebook made it possible and clearly the threat is still alive. This book details the efforts of Cambridge analytica, Steve Bannon, the Mercer’s and Russian intelligence to influence the 2016 U.S. elections and the U. K. Brexit vote. The writer worked for the company and became a whistleblower. Everybody should read this account which rings true and begs the question why did they all get away with it? Why hasn’t anyone one of the principal players gone to jail? Big data and tech companies like Facebook made it possible and clearly the threat is still alive. We need better regulations on tech and enforcement of laws against foreign interference in elections if we are to preserve our democracy.

  9. 4 out of 5

    J.

    ... I said nothing during the meeting, but afterward I went to see Alexander Nix. "This can't be legal," I told him. To which he replied, "You can't expect anything legal with these people. It's Africa." To my way of thinking, the Cambridge Analytica operation explains about ninety percent of both the American and British nightmare scenarios of the last few years: Trump and Brexit. Mr. Wylie was in a position to see the way the company came to be, the disturbing inside track. He is someone wh ... I said nothing during the meeting, but afterward I went to see Alexander Nix. "This can't be legal," I told him. To which he replied, "You can't expect anything legal with these people. It's Africa." To my way of thinking, the Cambridge Analytica operation explains about ninety percent of both the American and British nightmare scenarios of the last few years: Trump and Brexit. Mr. Wylie was in a position to see the way the company came to be, the disturbing inside track. He is someone who knows it inside out, in the right order, and with the right inflection, because he knew all the players--and was there. Wylie is something of a tech nerd, who bounced around the various spheres of influence in North America and Britain--basically offering credible social-science number-crunching, for persuasion and turnout in political campaigns. Gigs in Canada for the LPC party, then the US for Obama, then to Britain for the Lib Dems, before the move to the shadowy SCL Corporation in Britain, who did all manner of political analysis, polling and disinformation campaigns, all over the world. If you needed a referendum tipped in the third world, if you needed to target certain demographics in elections, then SCL could arrange all of it discreetly. (Later in the life of the scam, the head of SCL and its corporate twin, Cambridge Analytica, one Alexander Nix, would be caught in a devastating BBC video sting, offering an array of 'fixes' to an offshore interest. From voter suppression to bribery to honey-traps, Nix assures the would-be clients, SCL/CA could arrange things in ways profitable to all players in the deal.) It's probably best to let the book speak for itself, in exerpts : Social Engineering Is Big Business. Let's start with Breitbart, the disruptive right wing enabler funded by the affluent Mercers, and operated after the passing of Breitbart himself by the ever-calculating, pre-trumpist Steve Bannon. “When Andrew Breitbart (who had introduced the Mercers to Bannon) died suddenly in 2012, Bannon took his place as senior editor, and assumed his philosophy.” “… the Breitbart Doctrine: Politics flows from culture, and if conservatives wanted to successfully dam up progressive ideas in America, they would have to first challenge the culture. And so Breitbart was founded to be not only a media platform but also a tool for reversing the flow of American culture…” “At our first meeting, Bannon was the executive chair of Breitbart and had come to Cambridge in search of promising young conservatives and candidates to staff his new London bureau…. He had a problem, though. For all the site’s sound and fury, it became pigeonholed as a place for young, straight white guys who couldn’t get laid. Gamergate was one of the first, most public instances of their culture war: When several women tried to bring to light the gross misogyny within the gaming industry, they were hounded, doxed, and sent numerous death threats in a massive campaign against the “progressives” imposing their “feminist ideology” onto gaming culture.” “Gamergate was not instigated by Breitbart, but it was a sign to Bannon, who saw that angry lonely white men could become incredibly mobilized when they felt that their way of life was threatened. Bannon realized the power of cultivating the misogyny of horny virgins. Their nihilistic anger and talks of “beta uprisings” simmered in the recesses of the Internet. But growing an army of “incels” (involuntary celibates) would not be sufficient for the movement he fantasized about. He needed to find a new approach. This is one of the odder moments in the Cambridge Analytica saga …” Forging The Weapons For Dismantling The Culture. “Mercer looked at winning elections as a social engineering problem. The way to “fix society” was by creating simulations: if we could quantify society inside a computer, optimize that system, and then replicate that optimization outside the computer…. The structure chosen to set up this new entity was extremely convoluted, and it even confused staff working on projects, who were never sure who exactly the actually worked for. SCL Group would remain the “parent” of a new US subsidiary, incorporated in Delaware, called Cambridge Analytica…” “Nix initially explained how this labyrinthine setup was to allow us to operate under the radar. Mercer’s rivals in the finance sector watched his every move, and if they knew that he had acquired a psychological warfare firm (SCL), others in the industry might figure out his next play—to develop sophisticated trend-forecasting tools—or poach key staff. We knew Bannon wanted to work on a project with Breitbart, but this was originally supposed to be a side project to satiate his personal fixations. Of course, this was all bullshit, and they wanted to build a political arsenal…” All That Remained Was Finding Targeting Data. Enough Targeting Data. “One of the challenges for social sciences like psychology, anthropology, and sociology is a relative lack of numerical data, since it’s extremely hard to measure and quantify the abstract cultural or social dynamics of an entire society. That is, unless you can throw a virtual clone of everyone into a computer, and observe their dynamics. It felt like we were holding the keys to unlock a new way of studying society. How could I say no to that?” Survey Says: Trust Facebook. Who Knows You Best? “He typed in a query, and a list of links popped up. He clicked on one of the many people who went by that name in Nebraska – and there was everything about her, right up on the screen. Here’s her photo, here’s where she works, here’s her house. Here are her kids, this is where they go to school, this is the car she drives. She voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, she loves Katy Perry, she drives an Audi, she’s a bit basic … and on and on and on. We knew everything about her – and for many records, the information was updated in real time, so if she posted to Facebook, we could see it happening.” “And not only did we have all her Facebook data, but we were merging it with all the commercial and state bureau data we'd bought as well. And imputations made from the U.S Census. We had data about her mortgage applications, we knew how much money she made, whether she owned a gun. We had information from her airline mileage programs, so we knew how often she flew. We could see if she was married (she wasn't). We had a sense of her physical health. And we had a satellite photo of her house, easily obtained from Google Earth. We had re-created her life in our computer. She had no idea.” “”Let me get this straight,” I said. “If I create a Facebook app, and a thousand people use it, I’ll get like 150,000 profiles? Really? Facebook actually lets you do that?”” “ … this means that, for an analyst, there’s often no need to ask questions: You simply create algorithms that find discrete patterns in a user’s naturally occurring data. And once you do that, the system itself can reveal patterns in the data that you otherwise would never have noticed. Facebook users curate themselves all in one place, in a single data form. We don't need to connect a million data sets; we don't have to do complicated math to fill in missing data. The information is already in place, because everyone serves up their real-time autobiography, right there on the site. If you were creating a system from scratch to watch and study people, you couldn’t do much better than Facebook…” And That Only Sets The Stage. Wylie comes across as sympathetic, believable, and credible on the facts; he terminated his association with SCL/Cambridge within a year of Bannon's taking over, and before the Trump Campaign. If you had any lingering suspicion that the social media, elections or referenda in which you partake might be fair or unobserved by interlopers, you never will again. Recommended. “On March 16, 2018, a day before The Guardian and The New York Times pubished my story, Facebook announced that it was banning me from not only Facebook but also Instagram. Facebook had refused to ban white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other armies of hate, but it chose to ban me.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Oliver Bogler

    We owe Mr. Wylie a debt of gratitude for coming forward, at considerable personal risk and cost, to tell this story. And he tells it well, and clearly and concisely. What emerges is of course, simply horrific, and at times intensely cringe-worthy. We see upper-class-Brit-twits from, as we say nowadays, central casting destroying the world while having a lovely time and indulging sordid fever dreams of empire. We see the people who crawled out from under diverse rocks seize the tools created by c We owe Mr. Wylie a debt of gratitude for coming forward, at considerable personal risk and cost, to tell this story. And he tells it well, and clearly and concisely. What emerges is of course, simply horrific, and at times intensely cringe-worthy. We see upper-class-Brit-twits from, as we say nowadays, central casting destroying the world while having a lovely time and indulging sordid fever dreams of empire. We see the people who crawled out from under diverse rocks seize the tools created by carelessness, callousness, and cupidity and break things, fast. And, perhaps most importantly, Mr. Wylie is utterly convincing when he says we have nothing to hold against this. There are no sufficiently strong regulations or regulators, and the voice of the people is now heard only after it has been tortured and twisted through the instruments of the ruthless and their greedy technocrat allies.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Micah Grossman

    Too self serving, but the first-hand reports of Cambridge Analytica are worth the price of admission. He makes good regulation arguments toward the end. He really, really, really wants you to think he was different, remorseful, and not as evil as the others: good luck with that.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    First: is this memoir better than Edward Snowden's? Yes. They're different and should be treated as such, but, yes, this one is a better book. This book is better because of its style and how human it is, to me. While Snowden's report on what not only the US government did to its citizens and the rest of the world, together with some of the biggest tech companies on our planet, Wylie's ingeniously written, sly, funny, and extremely dark book touches several very human nerves, including what I bel First: is this memoir better than Edward Snowden's? Yes. They're different and should be treated as such, but, yes, this one is a better book. This book is better because of its style and how human it is, to me. While Snowden's report on what not only the US government did to its citizens and the rest of the world, together with some of the biggest tech companies on our planet, Wylie's ingeniously written, sly, funny, and extremely dark book touches several very human nerves, including what I believe is the most important one: what have I done and what can I do to better myself and try to end what I've been part of? I'm very interested in what surveillance capitalism—a superb term coined by Shoshana Zuboff—does to people and the people who govern them, not to mention the current top-earning tech companies that believe they're more powerful than people. Wylie's book starts off in pomp: It’s June 2018, and I’m in Washington to testify to the U.S. Congress about Cambridge Analytica, a military contractor and psychological warfare firm where I used to work, and a complex web involving Facebook, Russia, WikiLeaks, the Trump campaign, and the Brexit referendum. As the former director of research, I’ve brought with me evidence of how Facebook’s data was weaponized by the firm, and how the systems they built left millions of Americans vulnerable to the propaganda operations of hostile foreign states. Schiff leads the questioning. A former federal prosecutor, he is sharp and precise with his lines of inquiry, and he wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter. Did you work with Steve Bannon? Yes. Did Cambridge Analytica have any contacts with potential Russian agents? Yes. Do you believe that this data was used to sway the American electorate to elect the president of the United States? Yes. After that, there's a short admittance: As one of the creators of Cambridge Analytica, I share responsibility for what happened, and I know that I have a profound obligation to right the wrongs of my past. Like so many people in technology, I stupidly fell for the hubristic allure of Facebook’s call to “move fast and break things.” I’ve never regretted something so much. I moved fast, I built things of immense power, and I never fully appreciated what I was breaking until it was too late. After that, this book becomes interesting. Earlier this year, Netflix released "The Great Hack", a documentary that focused on Cambridge Analytica/SCL via another former acolyte, Brittany Kaiser. This book delves far deeper than fifty documentaries of that ilk would. Wylie starts off with running off why he's interested in numbers, and what they actually mean now. Tanks and bunker busters are useless against viral propaganda and Web-fueled radicalization. ISIS doesn’t just launch missiles; it also launches narratives. Russia compensates for its aging military equipment with “hybrid approaches” of attack, beginning with the ideological manipulation of target populations. If you’re building a non-kinetic weapon designed for scaled perspecticide—the active deconstruction and manipulation of popular perception—you first have to understand on a deep level what motivates people. Understanding people by analysing them, converting them to do what you want by understanding them, got it. Before attempting to subjugate continents to the will of their clients, SCL—the company where Wylie worked under a man named Alexander Nix—wanted to try psychological warfare on a small scale, so they chose Trinidad and Tobago. And went further than possibly any company or government has gone before they did. Getting the required data to build Jucikas’s envisioned targeting system would not be easy, but it was possible, due to a fluke of history in some parts of the developing world. Although there was substantial underdevelopment of traditional telecommunications infrastructure, largely stemming from corruption and the neglectful legacies of colonial administrations, some of the world’s poorest countries had leapfrogged generations of technology, achieving impressive advances in mobile networks. In Kenya, for example, local laws and customs made it difficult for some people to get a bank account, leading to a system in which Kenyans used cash to buy mobile phone credits, which could then be traded as a kind of digital currency. In fact, we found that people in many poorer nations distrusted banks, having lived through economic crises, hyperinflation, and bank collapses, and used the same mobile workaround. This setup meant that everybody needed a phone, and that it needed to work well, so that in otherwise impoverished nations, there’d been rapid investment in relatively decent mobile infrastructure. One unintended consequence of having large pluralities of citizens connected via mobile phone networks was that everybody could be traced, tracked, profiled, and communicated with. Jihadist networks such as ISIS, AQAP, and Boko Haram had already figured this out, taking advantage of easy access to the minds of future conquests. And that turned the rules of warfare upside down. Next we needed a case study—a location where we could scale to a nation-state level, to show potential military clients what we were capable of doing. Trinidad and Tobago, with 1.3 million people, fit the bill perfectly. It was an island nation, self-contained yet with a variety of cultures. There was an Afro-Caribbean population, an Indo-Caribbean population, and a smattering of white people, creating an interesting cultural tension to explore. It was an ideal laboratory in which to run our experiments at scale. To see what people were doing at home, by simply tapping into their use of the Internet, meant nothing to people who worked at SCL; at the very least, they got over their doubts fairly quickly: Working with a set of contractors, SCL was able to tap into the telecom firehose, pick an IP address, and then sit and watch what a person in Trinidad was browsing on the Internet at that very moment. Not surprisingly, it was a lot of porn. People were browsing everything imaginable, including the culturally specific “Trini Porn.” I can remember sitting around the computer one evening and watching as someone toggled between looking up plantain recipes and watching porn, all while Nix laughed at them. It was a revoltingly giddy laugh, almost infantile. He looked up the IP address and then opened up Google Maps satellite view to see the neighborhood this person lived in. Speaking of colonialism via white men: He had inherited tens of millions of pounds and never needed to work. He could have dedicated his life to noble pursuits or simply settled into a life of leisure, sponging off his trust fund. But instead he chose SCL. Nix couldn’t help himself—he was intoxicated by power. Born too late to play colonial master in the old British Empire, he treated SCL as the modern equivalent. As Nix put it in one of our meetings, he got to “play the white man.” “They [are] just niggers,” he once said to a colleague in an email, referring to black politicians in Barbados. Wylie writes a bit on Steve Bannon, a man who played a major part in Trump's campaign and id: In 2005, the right-wing commentator Andrew Breitbart began Breitbart.com, an online news aggregator, and by 2007 it had grown to publish original content as Breitbart News. The site ran on the undercurrent of Breitbart’s personal philosophy, which has been referred to as the Breitbart Doctrine: Politics flows from culture, and if conservatives wanted to successfully dam up progressive ideas in America, they would have to first challenge the culture. And so Breitbart was founded to be not only a media platform but also a tool for reversing the flow of American culture. When Andrew Breitbart (who had introduced the Mercers to Bannon) died suddenly in 2012, Bannon took his place as senior editor, and assumed his philosophy. At our first meeting, he was the executive chair of Breitbart and had come to Cambridge in search of promising young conservatives and candidates to staff his new London bureau. The logic, as we later learned with Brexit, was that Britain served as an important cultural signifier for Americans. Win the Brits, and so falls America, Bannon later told me, as the mythologies and tropes of Hollywood had crafted an image of Britain as a country of educated, rational, and classy people. He had a problem, though. For all the site’s sound and fury, it became pigeonholed as a place for young, straight white guys who couldn’t get laid. Gamergate was one of the first, most public instances of their culture war: When several women tried to bring to light the gross misogyny within the gaming industry, they were hounded, doxed, and sent numerous death threats in a massive campaign against the “progressives” imposing their “feminist ideology” onto gaming culture. Gamergate was not instigated by Breitbart, but it was a sign to Bannon, who saw that angry, lonely white men could become incredibly mobilized when they felt that their way of life was threatened. Bannon realized the power of cultivating the misogyny of horny virgins. Their nihilistic anger and talks of “beta uprisings” simmered in the recesses of the Internet. But growing an army of “incels” (involuntary celibates) would not be sufficient for the movement he fantasized about. He needed to find a new approach. Analytical views into how FOX, the Rupert Murdoch-owned media-campaign circus, works, is also interesting, but part of the run-of-the-mill everyday work that SCL did for their customers. And who were they? CA’s client list eventually grew into a who’s who of the American right wing. The Trump and Cruz campaigns paid more than $5 million apiece to the firm. The U.S. Senate campaigns of Roy Blunt of Missouri and Tom Cotton of Arkansas became clients. And, of course, there was the losing House bid of Art Robinson, the Oregon Republican who collected piss and church organs. In the autumn of 2014, Jeb Bush paid a visit to the office. Despite having received millions from Mercer, Nix never bothered to learn much about U.S. politics, so he asked Gettleson to join him. Bush, who had come alone, began by telling Nix that if he decided to run for president, he wanted to be able to do it on his terms, without having to “court the crazies” in his party. What ties Wylie together with Snowden the most interestingly—apart from their vivisections—are their morals. They've both come to places where they've fervently exposed their own ways of thinking and come to the conclusion that something must stop: In our invasion of America, we were purposefully activating the worst in people, from paranoia to racism. I immediately wondered if this was what Stanley Milgram felt like watching his research subjects. We were doing it in service to men whose values were in total opposition to mine. Bannon and Mercer were more than happy to hire the very people they sought to oppress—queers, immigrants, women, Jews, Muslims, and people of color—so that they could weaponize our insights and experiences to advance these causes. I was no longer working at a firm that fought against radical extremists who shackled women, brutalized nonbelievers, and tortured gays; I was now working for extremists who wanted to build their very own dystopia in America and Europe. Nix knew this and didn’t even care. For the cheap thrill of sealing another deal, he had begun entertaining bigots and homophobes, expecting his staff not only to look the other way, but for us to betray our own people. In the end, we were creating a machine to contaminate America with hate and cultish paranoia, and I could no longer ignore the immorality and illegality of it all. I did not want to be a collaborator. Then, in August 2014, something terrible happened. A veteran SCL staffer, a longtime friend and confidant of Nix’s, returned from Africa severely ill with malaria. He came into the office red-eyed and sweating profusely, slurring his words and talking nonsense. After Nix shouted at him for being late, the rest of us urged him to go to the hospital. But before he could be seen at the hospital, he collapsed and tumbled down a flight of stairs, smashing his head hard on the concrete. He slipped into a coma. His brain swelled and part of his skull was removed. His doctors worried that his cognitive functioning might never be the same. After Nix returned from visiting the hospital, he asked HR for guidance on liability insurance and how long he had to keep paying his loyal friend, still in a coma and missing part of his skull. This seemed callous in the extreme. It was in that moment that I realized Nix was a monster. Worse, I knew he wasn’t alone. Bannon was also a monster. And soon enough, were I to stay, I worried that I would become a monster, too. Wylie goes into much detail and eloquently ties ribbons together to explain how not only Trump's people, but other major players—for example, the organisations behind the entire pro-Brexit organisation, Russian organisations, political interests, and companies looking to have Trump voted and Facebook—worked feverishly to goals that would further the few without a care in the world about what they were doing, which was basically PSYOP. In calls with the Trump Organization, we heard about declining ratings for The Apprentice and how fewer people were staying at Trump hotels and gambling in the casinos. With the advent of online gambling and the total dependence on Donald Trump’s public image as a sexy, savvy billionaire, it seemed his team was beginning to realize that an outdated casino system and an aging, orange-stained C-list celebrity didn’t conjure “sexy and fun” for potential new customers. The Trump brand was on a downturn, and the company needed to figure out how to give it a boost. Wylie gives The Guardian's editors a boot for having cut out "how Sophie Schmidt—daughter of Google CEO Eric Schmidt—had introduced Nix to Palantir, setting off the chain of events that led to SCL’s foray into data warfare." More on that:

  13. 5 out of 5

    Silvana

    Horrifying. The title says America, but it is happening everywhere. Hard to think positively after reading this book, very well-written as it is. Might write full review later, but sheesh. I need a hot choco and cuddling with my dog now.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aditi ~ A Thousand Words A Million Books

    Brilliant. Makes you think, scares you and just an overall stellar explanation and read of the behind the scenes Cambridge Analytica scandal.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    Thanks, I hate it. This is one of the most horrifying books I've read in recent years, but it's certainly fascinating and informative. That said, I'm certainly no happier for having learned in more detail about Cambridge Analytica's data-driven psychological warfare and the ways in which Facebook was weaponized to skew recent elections. Christopher Wylie is a complex person who seems to be trying to atone for his misdeeds through publicly exposing the dirty work he engaged in. Whether or not he co Thanks, I hate it. This is one of the most horrifying books I've read in recent years, but it's certainly fascinating and informative. That said, I'm certainly no happier for having learned in more detail about Cambridge Analytica's data-driven psychological warfare and the ways in which Facebook was weaponized to skew recent elections. Christopher Wylie is a complex person who seems to be trying to atone for his misdeeds through publicly exposing the dirty work he engaged in. Whether or not he completely succeeds in that atonement is rather left to the reader. He's not infallible (who among us is completely pure in motive and deed?) but I'm still thankful he saw the light and decided to come clean.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tom Walsh

    Well documented account of Cambridge Analytica’s Tactics. This insider tale of Bannon’s, Mercer’s and other Big Money interests’ perversion of a powerful technology to destroy the integrity of the US 2016 and British Brexit elections as well as other elections around the world. But much more importantly, a well-reasoned warning to the World of the power of Technologies like Facebook and Data Mining to tear apart any semblance of Privacy Rights and ultimately of Human Free Will. Brilliantly Scary Well documented account of Cambridge Analytica’s Tactics. This insider tale of Bannon’s, Mercer’s and other Big Money interests’ perversion of a powerful technology to destroy the integrity of the US 2016 and British Brexit elections as well as other elections around the world. But much more importantly, a well-reasoned warning to the World of the power of Technologies like Facebook and Data Mining to tear apart any semblance of Privacy Rights and ultimately of Human Free Will. Brilliantly Scary. If you don’t read the whole book, read Chapter 12! It will change your perception of the role of Social Media in your life, now and in the VERY Near Future!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    The text is rather simplistic. The people are morons, semi-autonomous drones with no will or reason. On the other side there are powerful wizards ready to program these drones to do something that is pure evil. And there is Wylie, the knight in shinny armor ready to slay the dragon.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Kramar

    I’ve read over and over again that our data is the new oil/gold, but never really understood why until I read this book. A truly terrifying tale about how the billionaires are trying to recreate cultures to their way of thinking, and how we are letting them. I think this story needs to be taught to every high school student in America.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    My non fiction read for a change...thoroughly gripping,sometimes the content had me gaping in astonishment. Big brother watches...data is the new oil!!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Xijian Lim

    I breezed past this book in about 2 weeks, which is a testament to the way the book flows. When I first heard about Wylie and Cambridge Analytica (CA) in 2017, I really wanted to get a clearer picture of the way these guys were able to roll out behavioural questionnaires en masse on FB. I worked for an online social media analytics company and mastered in psychology in my undergraduate degree, hence the keenness in learning about what CA did, and how they did what they claimed to do. The book giv I breezed past this book in about 2 weeks, which is a testament to the way the book flows. When I first heard about Wylie and Cambridge Analytica (CA) in 2017, I really wanted to get a clearer picture of the way these guys were able to roll out behavioural questionnaires en masse on FB. I worked for an online social media analytics company and mastered in psychology in my undergraduate degree, hence the keenness in learning about what CA did, and how they did what they claimed to do. The book gives a good first hand account of CA's more humble forays into building apps and holding group interviews to try to get a form of a structure in terms of hypothesising which groups could be more politically swayed to vote for one party over another. While making psychological profiling pretty easy to understand for the common man, it doesn't fully explain the connection between "Dark Triads" personality types (which should be a really small section of a population, - tiny minutiae even) ; adding a mix of Russian inteference via online gossip and fake stories - and tada! zresulting in being able to convince close to 48% of the voting population to cast their votes for Trump. Granted Christopher quit when he sniffed that these campaign and CA staff were meeting regularly with Russian diplomats and businessmen, the direct Russian meddling is still a syllogism at this point: 1) CA's parent company SCL has been involved in manipulating the populations in African and Asian countries via social media to sway votes away from certain candidates, as well as other nefarious actions. 2) Trump and the Brexit campaign team used CA's services and were meeting with Russian nationals with connections. then 3) it must be assumed logically that the Russians were in bed as well. Unfortunately, direct proof has so far not been unearthed at large between these parties getting together with Russian actors to coordinate a mass conspiracy to poison the well on social media - all that was publicly aired was Trump's campaign manager(s) trying to solicit leaked russian emails, but I digress. This is a well written book by Mr. Wylie with the help of a great editorial team to both recall past events that seem that they were factually checked; and a narrative that flows between capturing larger than life characters like Bannon and Nix, and the author's internal assessment of their personalities and strange circumstances he found himself in.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Enzetta

    Minus for or against politics or political sway, the mere fact that this was pulled off is fascinating all by itself. Minus who is running and who the president is, forget current names in the news and party names; forget all that! One thinks this is sci-fi fantasy and the possibility this could actually happen, but to actually have happened? Really? And we fell for it like little bots on a game board which is all we were to them. THIS IS A TRUE ACCOUNTING. The first plot was to deter the black Minus for or against politics or political sway, the mere fact that this was pulled off is fascinating all by itself. Minus who is running and who the president is, forget current names in the news and party names; forget all that! One thinks this is sci-fi fantasy and the possibility this could actually happen, but to actually have happened? Really? And we fell for it like little bots on a game board which is all we were to them. THIS IS A TRUE ACCOUNTING. The first plot was to deter the black vote; as was the case with one of the first programs from data used from Facebook. & then to move to the U.S. elections/America First and on to Brexit. Three men of no great public consequence began to pull this off in the U.S. with the idea of taking over, destruct and rebuild a conservative political party to their liking. Russia used it to cause chaos in the UK and elsewhere across the globe! Who else has this control game? If this doesn't scare you, you don't own anything with an 'enter key'.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    If you read nothing else this year, you need to read this. It throws light over Cambridge Analytica, and the lengths that it would go to one to show just what they could do, and what they were prepared to do for their clients. The shape of things to come, were shown with data provided by small Caribbean Islands and smaller African Nations. This data, was twisted and manipulated, to coerce people into doing things that they wouldn't normally do. Whether, this be in-sighting violence or manipulating If you read nothing else this year, you need to read this. It throws light over Cambridge Analytica, and the lengths that it would go to one to show just what they could do, and what they were prepared to do for their clients. The shape of things to come, were shown with data provided by small Caribbean Islands and smaller African Nations. This data, was twisted and manipulated, to coerce people into doing things that they wouldn't normally do. Whether, this be in-sighting violence or manipulating the way in which they voted. Understandably, this was very attractive, to people and organisations with a certain leaning. The upper echelons of politics were drawn in with implications for the vote leave Brexit campaign, and the 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign using Cambridge Analytica at various points. It is written and whistle blown by the former director of research for Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie. Just for the sheer insight, this book really is a must read. Rated: 5/5 Status: Completed

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anita

    I couldn't decide, is this a horror story or a tragedy? The bottom line is this, this book scared me, it will always haunt me and it has proven that monsters are REAL.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Mara

    Brilliant. And much more insight than Netflix's The Great Hack. Frightening in it's eye-openingness.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Hawke

    In a transient depression after reading this. A must read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Les Simpson

    I clearly remember that one of the loudest rallying cries around the emergence of online social media was that various platforms would help marginalized people find supportive communities and they would learn they are not alone in the world. One of the loudest warnings was the possible creation of “echo chambers” where people would become stagnant in their thinking because they would never be challenged by thoughts or opinions counter to their own. Flash forward to 2019. While online social media I clearly remember that one of the loudest rallying cries around the emergence of online social media was that various platforms would help marginalized people find supportive communities and they would learn they are not alone in the world. One of the loudest warnings was the possible creation of “echo chambers” where people would become stagnant in their thinking because they would never be challenged by thoughts or opinions counter to their own. Flash forward to 2019. While online social media has certainly lived up to the dream of helping marginalized people find each other, it turns out that some individuals and groups are marginalized for good reason. Racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes, fascists, and other miserable souls now flock to echo chambers of virulent hatred. Online, they do not have to suppress the fear and rage the larger part of society finds abhorrent. Online, they do not have to worry about being “politically correct” or pretend to care that something they believe or say or do might “trigger” someone. In a fitting bit of irony, online social media is where these maladjusted individuals can come out of the closet and be their true selves. This book shows how the owners of these social media platforms, especially Facebook, allow hate-filled communities to thrive because they are niche markets for potential advertisers. It also breaks down how the data of these users are for sale not just to advertisers, but political parties and nation states. It details how precise algorithms allowed user data to be weaponized for very specific “psy-op” attacks around the world. It shows, from the inside, how SCL (which evolved into Cambridge Analytica under the funding and efforts of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer) was the first organization to not only realize the world changing potential of the user data collected by online social media, but how its team of mostly queer programmers and data scientists created the tools to mine it for the highest bidders, no matter those bidders’ motives. As someone who has enjoyed cyberpunk novels since the genre was invented, nothing I have ever read in that milieu has been as gripping, thought provoking, or horrifying as what is detailed in this book. Truth is much more fascinating than fiction. Mindf*ck has my highest recommendation.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    I truly doubt that any rhetorician, persuader or influencer in history could come close to understanding the abilities in modern technology to impose widespread influence with computer software, and big data. Such ideas would have been historically incoherent to people who helped birth modern Governments and the ideas such as liberty, and power balances, which they rest upon. This is precisely why we are treading the water of a new crisis. The political infrastructure of modern industrialized de I truly doubt that any rhetorician, persuader or influencer in history could come close to understanding the abilities in modern technology to impose widespread influence with computer software, and big data. Such ideas would have been historically incoherent to people who helped birth modern Governments and the ideas such as liberty, and power balances, which they rest upon. This is precisely why we are treading the water of a new crisis. The political infrastructure of modern industrialized democratic societies were created by men who lived before the computer, and of course way before technologies such as a light bulb, or even a phone. We are therefore going to need to learn to adapt to the new dangers to these governments before some terrible happens. And of course, one may say, why assume that a government will descend into some awful body, and well, that seems to be a trend and as such, mind you if I think we need self defense tactics. This is honestly a pretty terrifying memoir/personal history of Cambridge analytica - from a person who was smack dab in the middle of all the controversy. He of course, was also its 'whistle blower’. He showed the public that their data is being manipulated for the means of political gain. Part of what makes this book so powerful is its ability to contextualize the 2016 election. We are drawn to ask where will will end up in the future of the internet. He goes so far as to even state in the end of the book that it would be most wise for the internet to start taking itself more seriously by making sure software developers follow certain rules, just as a builder must in creating a legal building safe for walking in and about. This was a much less academic version of Zubov’s surveillance capitalism which intellectualizes the development of the pressing issues disclosed in this book. It though is more oriented on money rather than political power and is much more Abstract. In short this book is not just a history but a dire warning for government and the people concerned for their ruling body to know the face of this particular devil. For those that value being a well educated voter, reading this book and complimented it with Zubov’s text may be a wise choice.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I was overcome with admiration of the author of this book and how well written it is though I’m sure he had help. Mindf*ck tells Christopher Wylie’s story about his work for Cambridge Analytica and how it affected the BREXIT vote in Great Britain and the 2016 presidential election in the USA. While steadily being taken over by the Russians in the background and Steven Bannon in the foreground, Cambridge Analytica used Facebook to create personality and opinion quizzes to entice people to agree t I was overcome with admiration of the author of this book and how well written it is though I’m sure he had help. Mindf*ck tells Christopher Wylie’s story about his work for Cambridge Analytica and how it affected the BREXIT vote in Great Britain and the 2016 presidential election in the USA. While steadily being taken over by the Russians in the background and Steven Bannon in the foreground, Cambridge Analytica used Facebook to create personality and opinion quizzes to entice people to agree to allow access to their accounts so the company could gather and weaponize their personal information. Wylie describes how Facebook could refuse to turn over information to the British parliament and defy governments. He shows that government is really powerless in the face of many of thee tech companies. Cambridge Analytica didn’t face any fines or punishment in the face of the British or USA government. It helped stir a race and religious war in Myanmar. Wylie also talks how he has banned from Facebook companies including Instagram and What’s App. That past information and photos have disappeared about him from friend’s accounts. How he had to get new phones as did his family and friends and he has to put his phone in a lead lined drawer at night to keep it from spying on him. I have to admit I didn’t pay much attention to Christopher Wylie in interviews on TV. Maybe because I like my phone and the internet I didn’t want to hear, but this book is a heartfelt and well written book that hit me where I live. Fascinating.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Robins

    I enjoyed this book but at the back of my mind was the nagging thought that, whilst Chris Wylie proudly wears his whistle blower badge, and is to be applauded for that, he managed to work with these horrible right wing ghouls for quite a while. Maybe if he'd done the right thing a little earlier, we wouldn't be lumbered with Trump and Brexit - the toxic campaign for the latter having changed this country irreparably. Fortunately he eventually did do the right thing, and people like Carol Cadwallad I enjoyed this book but at the back of my mind was the nagging thought that, whilst Chris Wylie proudly wears his whistle blower badge, and is to be applauded for that, he managed to work with these horrible right wing ghouls for quite a while. Maybe if he'd done the right thing a little earlier, we wouldn't be lumbered with Trump and Brexit - the toxic campaign for the latter having changed this country irreparably. Fortunately he eventually did do the right thing, and people like Carol Cadwalladr at the Guardian, the various lawyers working for Wylie and the reporters at the NY Times made sure this story got told. This is the story of a cast of truly awful people - Alexander Nix, Steve Bannon, Mercer, Arron Banks, Darren Grimes, the list goes on. The names will be familiar, the damage they have done will remain for years. Big tech companies now have power and wealth which far exceeds that of some nation states, yet have a freedom to do whatever they want, free of effective international legislation, which is frankly terrifying. Until the behaviour of these people is reined in, and until privacy laws reflect the 21st century rather than the 20th, this situation is only going to get worse. Without a doubt the most depressing book I've read in the last year.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Fish

    Mixed feelings about this. Wylie seems quite full of himself - he's the center of everything, the mind behind the data of the f*ck, as it were, or so he makes it seem. But there are many points here where the timeline is quite inconsistent, and one British government inquiry noted that Wylie was actually on contract as an intern, and left in July 2014, at a point when much of Cambridge Analytica's meddling in the U.S. elections of 2014 had yet to occur. There's plenty here that just doesn't add Mixed feelings about this. Wylie seems quite full of himself - he's the center of everything, the mind behind the data of the f*ck, as it were, or so he makes it seem. But there are many points here where the timeline is quite inconsistent, and one British government inquiry noted that Wylie was actually on contract as an intern, and left in July 2014, at a point when much of Cambridge Analytica's meddling in the U.S. elections of 2014 had yet to occur. There's plenty here that just doesn't add up. That said, the final chapter and epilogue are worth reading. They're a warning about how our social media data is being used against us (stop taking those quizzes!) as political forces try to reinforce the views of some and discourage others from participating in democracy. These efforts were successful in the U.S. in 2014 and 2016 and in the Brexit vote. Wylie offers some solutions in his epilogue, such as requiring social media platforms to use "choice enhancing design" and ban "dark pattern design" that "confuse, deceive or manipulate users." Whether the platforms or lawmakers will take up such solutions is another question.

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