Showing posts with label elections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label elections. Show all posts

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

So many Newspoll losses mean democratic processes at risk as Turnbull Government strives to claw back political ground


“The Coalition now trails Labor by 47.5 per cent to 52.5 per cent in two-party terms across the four polls. This reflects a 48:52 result from Fairfax/Ipsos, the same from Newspoll, the same from Essential and a 46:54 result from ReachTel on March 29.” [The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 April 2016]

From May 2014 to September 2015 the Abbott Coalition Government experienced 30 consecutive negative Newspoll federal voting intentions opinion polls*.

After the sacking of Tony Abbott by his party and the installation of Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister the Turnbull Coalition Government saw 12 positive Newspolls before this second rendition of a Coalition federal government itself experienced 30 consecutive negative Newspolls from 12 September 2016 to 9 April 2018.

This polling history indicates that the Liberal-National federal government is likely to have only had the national electorate’s approval for around ten of the last thirty-seven calendar months.

According to the Australian Electoral Commission; As House of Representatives and half-Senate elections are usually held simultaneously, the earliest date for such an election would be Saturday 4 August 2018. As the latest possible date for a half-Senate election is Saturday 18 May 2019, the latest possible date for a simultaneous (half-Senate and House of Representatives) election is also Saturday 18 May 2019.

Given that (i) between them the Abbott and Turnbull governments have experienced  experienced only 12 positive polls in the last 68 Newspolls; and (ii) the Liberal Party has already admitted that during its successful March 2018 South Australian election it had utilised the services of one of the known “bad actors” on  the international election campaign consultancy scene, the US-based data miner i360; it is highly likely that “bad actors” will be employed once more and over the next four to thirteen months voters will be subjected to a barrage of misinformation, bald lies, vicious rumour and false promises from both Coalition politicians and their supporters in mainstream and social media.

Voters will have to fact check what they hear and read as never before.

* A federal voting intentions Newspoll is considered negative for one or other of the two main political parties based on two party preferred percentage results
Newspolls surveys normally occur every two to three weeks outside of election campaign periods when they are likely to occur more often.
Newspoll results can be found at https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/newspoll.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Are those nasty digital chickens coming home to roost for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook?


In 2014 rumours began to spread about the about Strategic Communication Laboratries (SLC) Cambridge Analytica.

By 12 December 2015, after contacting Facebook's public relations representatives in London, The Guardian (UK) was reporting that:

"A little-known data company, now embedded within Cruz’s campaign and indirectly financed by his primary billionaire benefactor, paid researchers at Cambridge University to gather detailed psychological profiles about the US electorate using a massive pool of mainly unwitting US Facebook users built with an online survey.
As part of an aggressive new voter-targeting operation, Cambridge Analytica – financially supported by reclusive hedge fund magnate and leading Republican donor Robert Mercer – is now using so-called “psychographic profiles” of US citizens in order to help win Cruz votes, despite earlier concerns and red flags from potential survey-takers.

Documents seen by the Guardian have uncovered longstanding ethical and privacy issues about the way academics hoovered up personal data by accessing a vast set of US Facebook profiles, in order to build sophisticated models of users’ personalities.

By 6 January 2016 The Guardian was reporting on what was likely to turn up in Facebook feeds by way of political advertising:

If you lived in north-east Iowa, the evangelical stronghold where the battle for the soul of conservative American politics will play out in person on Monday, and happened to have given Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign your email address sometime in the last few months, you might find something especially appealing this weekend in your Facebook feed.

Even the most obtuse member of Facebook Inc.'s board or senior management would have been aware that the company was fast becoming an active participant in the US presidential primaries campaign. 

Fast forward to now as the chickens come home to roost.......
Google Search, 3 April 2018

The Guardian, 26 March 2018:

In rejecting the media’s characterisation of this large-scale privacy violation as a “data breach”, Facebook claims “everyone involved” in the 2014 data-siphoning exercise had given their consent. “People knowingly provided their information,” the company claimed. As with its interpretation of the word “clear”, Facebook seems to have a skewed understanding of what “knowingly” really means.

Facebook’s senior executives may now be feeling apologetic, “outraged” even. But in January 2016, as Trump surged in the polls, Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, told investors the 2016 election was “a big deal in terms of ad spend”. In other words, a major commercial opportunity. The ability to target voters, she said, was key: “Using Facebook and Instagram ads you can target by congressional district, you can target by interest, you can target by demographics or any combination of those,” she boasted. “And we’re seeing politicians at all levels really take advantage of that targeting.”

It’s perhaps worth remembering, then, that until recently Facebook was encouraging political operatives to take full advantage of its garden of surveillance. And while aspects of the Cambridge Analytica affair may be surprising, and offer a disturbing glimpse into the shadows, the routine exploitation of information about our lives – about who we are – is what’s powering Facebook. It’s the behemoth’s lifeblood.

This was a statement from the U.K. Parliament House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 28 March 2018:

Christopher Wylie gave evidence to the Committee on Tuesday 27th March 2018 during which he referred to the evidence the Committee is publishing today. This session is available to watch. Please note the transcript will be published online shortly.

On Tuesday 20th March, the Committee Chair Damian Collins MP wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, requesting oral evidence. Facebook have responded offering two senior executives. The Committee has accepted evidence from Chris Cox, Chief Product Officer, but has written today to Facebook to clarify whether  Mr. Zuckerberg will also appear himself, as requested. This matter was also raised with The UK Prime Minister Theresa May, in her evidence before the Liaison Committee on the evening of the 27th March. She said that Facebook should be taking the matter seriously.

On Thursday 22nd, the Committee wrote to Alexander Nix, the suspended CEO of Cambridge Analytica, recalling him to Parliament to give further evidence. Mr. Nix has agreed to come before the Committee again. You can watch the evidence session that took place on 27th February 2018 where Mr. Nix gave evidence on Parliamentlive.tv and read the transcript.


Monday, 26 March 2018

A brief scrutiny of the byzantium maze that is Cambridge Analytica


Attempting to make sense of a group of corporate actors who obviously delighted in establishing a veritable labyrinth of companies and to create a reference to follow any future revelations.........

So what does the British-US company Cambridge Analytica which; 
(i) has been accused of rat f**king the 2015 Nigerian presidential election and the 2013 & 2017 Kenyan elections
(ii) allegedly influenced the 2016 UK Brexit referendum vote by assisting the Leave.EU campaign
(iii) was known to have purchased data from Global Science Research Ltd who harvested personal details from an est. 50 million Facebook user accounts and, 
(iv) later sold a breakdown of user data first to a number of GOP candidates during 2014 midterms, as well as to Ted Cruz during the US primaries and then to Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential campaign,
actually look like on paper?

This appears to be the company whose business name is included in so many media reports at the moment:

Cambridge Analytica LLC incorporated in Delaware USA on 31 December 2013 offering data mining, analysis, and behavioral communication solutions according to Bloomberg.com and, now considered a subsidiary of SCL Group Limited.

“The genesis of Cambridge Analytica was to address the vacuum in the US Republican political market that became evident after [Mitt] Romney’s defeat in 2012” [Alexander Nix, CEO Cambridge Analytics].

Executives

Alexander James Ashburner Nix  Chief Executive Officer
Julian David Wheatland Chief Financial Officer
Mark Turnbull Managing Director of CA Political Global
Thomas Finkle Global Head of Client Services

It shares its name with a UK Company CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA (UK) LIMITED - formerly SCL USA Limited incorporated 6 January 2015. 

Directors

NIX, Alexander James Ashburner Appointed founding sole director 6 January 2015. Only shareholder - in his own name and through another company solely owned by him,  SCL Elections Limited (incorporated 17 October 2012). 

SCL Elections Limited is described by Cambridge Analylitica as "an affiliate of Cambridge Analytica" and also the "genisis" of Cambridge Analytica. It is now being blamed for receiving harvested Facebook data and Cambridge Analytica is hypocritically trying to distance itself in a company media release on 23 March 2018.

The Cambridge Analytica website states it has offices in London, New York, Washington DC, Brazil and Malaysia. Until 20 March 2018 Alexander Nix was listed as its CEO. Acting CEO is now Chief Data Scientist at SCL Group Limited Dr. Alexander Tayler.

How do two firms on opposite sides of the world - one of which has only one director/owner and no indentifiable board members - suddenly become this company with reputed influence and tentacles everywhere?

Perhaps the answer lies in the est. US$15 million in indirect funding Cambridge Analytica has allegedly received from right-wing American billionaire Robert Mercer & his daughter Rebekah through one or all five affiliated US 'front' companies including Cambridge Analytica LLC and in its relationship with another UK corporation with which it shares information/data/personnel.

The remaining US 'front' companies are:

Cambridge Analytica Holdings LLC (Delaware (US), 9 May 2014- )
Cambridge Analytica Commercial LLC (Delaware (US), 21 Jan 2015- )
Cambridge Analytica Political LLC (Delaware (US), 21 Jan 2015- )

That other UK company is SCL Group Limited formerly Strategic Communication Laboratories Limited incorporated on 20 July 2005 by STG Secretaries Limited on behalf of an unidentified person/s, with an opening share capital of £100,000.

Directors

NIX, Alexander James Ashburner Appointed co-founding director along with Alexander Waddinton Oakes on 20 July 2005, resigned on 7 December 2012 and reappointed on 28 January 2016. Shareholder. Owner of Cambridge Analytica (UK) Limited.
OAKES, Nigel John Appointed on 3 October 2005. Shareholder.
GABB, Roger Michael Appointed on 10 November 2005. Shareholder. Ownership of shares – more than 25% but not more than 50%. Ownership of voting rights - more than 25% but not more than 50%
WHEATLAND, Julian David Appointed on 20 December 2007. Shareholder.

Barclays Bank PLC current lender to the company It seems this bank assisted in restructuring SCL Group Limited's finances.

Company Positions Identified by LinkedIn

United Kingdom
Web / Software Developer at Cambridge Analytica / SCL Group
Twickenham, United Kingdom
Current: Web Developer at SCL Group
Data Engineer presso Cambridge Analytica
London, United Kingdom
Current: Data Engineer at Cambridge Analytica & SCL Group
Account Director at Cambridge Analytica
London, United Kingdom
Current: Senior Project Manager at SCL Group
Chairman at SCL Group Chief Executive at Hatton International
London, United Kingdom
Current: Chairman at SCL Group
CEO, SCL Group - Behavioural Influence
London, United Kingdom
Current: CEO at SCL Group - Strategic Communication Laboratories
Financial Crime Investigations & Security Intelligence
London, United Kingdom
Current: Head - Fraud Surveillance, Corruption, Investigations at SCL Group
Head of Elections
London, United Kingdom
Current: Head of Elections at SCL Group
Lead Data Scientist at SCL Group
London, United Kingdom
Director of Operations (SCL) / Consultant (BDI)
London, United Kingdom
Current: Director of Operations (from 2011), Head of Infrastructures (2009-2011) at The SCL Group
DevOps Engineer at SCL Group
London, United Kingdom
Current: Development Operations Engineer at SCL Group
Senior Planning Engineer at SCL Group
Birmingham, United Kingdom
Community manager chez SCL Group
London, United Kingdom
Current: Community manager at SCL Group
Financial Controller at SCL Group
London, United Kingdom
Management Accountant at SCL Group
London, United Kingdom
Account Coordinator at SCL Group
United Kingdom
Paralegal
London, United Kingdom
Current: Paralegal at SCL Group
IT Support Analyst at SCL Group
Slough, United Kingdom

United States
Director, Business Development at SCL Group
Washington D.C. Metro Area
Senior Data Scientist at SCL Group
Washington D.C. Metro Area

Canada
Technical Manager at SCL Group
Alberta, Canada

Russia
Менеджер по закупкам - SCL Group [purchasing manager]
Russian Federation
Current: Менеджер по закупкам at SCL Group

Macedonia
Head of SCL Balkans at SCL Group
Macedonia

Germany
Project Manager bei SCL Group
Hannover Area, Germany
Current: Project Manager at SCL Group

Netherlands
Behavioural & Legal Research Scientist // BDI Consultant
Breda Area, Netherlands

Australia
Project Portfolio Manager at SCL Group Australia
Sydney, Australia
Current: Project Portfolio Manager at SCL Group

New Zealand
SCL Products Manager at SCL Group
Auckland, New Zealand

Malaysia
Head, CA Political/Commercial Southeast Asia
Putra Jaya, Malaysia
Current: Director of SCL Southeast Asia at SCL Group

India
Research Analyst at SCL Group
New Delhi Area, India
Director Business Development at SCL Group
New Delhi Area, India

China
CUSTOMER SERVICE at SCL Group
China

Open Corporates' Company Grouping for Cambridge Analytica

 SCL GROUP LIMITED (United Kingdom, 20 Jul 2005- ) directors
 SCL INSIGHT LIMITED (United Kingdom, 13 Sep 2016- ) directors
 SCL ELECTIONS LIMITED (United Kingdom, 17 Oct 2012- ) director
 SCL ANALYTICS LIMITED (United Kingdom, 23 Oct 2015- ) directors
 CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA(UK) LIMITED (United Kingdom, 6 Jan 2015- ) director
 SCL COMMERCIAL LIMITED (United Kingdom, 10 Jan 2014- ) director
SCL SOCIAL LIMITED (United Kingdom, 19 Feb 2013- ) director
 inactive SCL SOVEREIGN LIMITED (United Kingdom, 6 Jan 2015-28 Jun 2016) director Voluntarily dissolved June 2016
 inactive BOLDNOTE LIMITED (United Kingdom, 27 Oct 2004- 8 Jan 2013) directors Voluntarily dissolved January 2013
inactive SCL DIGITAL LIMITED (United Kingdom, 6 Jan 2015-28 Jun 2016) director Voluntarily dissolved January 2015
CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA LLC (Delaware (US), 31 Dec 2013- ) 
 inactive branch SCL USA INC. (Virginia (US), 25 May 2016-31 Jul 2017) 
 SCL USA INC. (Delaware (US), 22 Apr 2014- ) details
 branch SCL USA INC. (New York (US), 10 May 2016- )
 branch SCL USA Inc. (District of Columbia (US), 22 Apr 2014- ) 
 inactive Strategic Communication Laboratories LLC (Virginia (US), 7 Mar 2011-30 Jun 2013) 
 STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION LABORATORIES, INC. (Delaware (US), 23 Aug 2006- )
 CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA COMMERCIAL LLC (Delaware (US), 21 Jan 2015- ) 
 CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA POLITICAL LLC (Delaware (US), 21 Jan 2015- ) 


BACKGROUND

The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 March 2018:

Wylie, a Canadian citizen, moved to London in 2010 and started to work in 2013 for SCL Group, which he said conducted "information operations" around the world and also worked in campaigns, especially in African nations.

As research director, Wylie helped that company give birth to Cambridge Analytica as "an American brand" that would focus on US politics with at least $US10 million from billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer. The Cambridge Analytica office was in the posh Mayfair neighbourhood of London, and the dozens of young workers - many of them contractors, a number of whom were from Eastern Europe - buzzed about with Apple laptops.

At the helm, said Wylie, was Mercer's daughter Rebekah, who was president, and conservative strategist Steve Bannon, who was vice president. Running day-to-day operations was a smooth-talking upper-crust Briton, Alexander Nix……

Wylie said that it was under Nix's direction - but with the knowledge of Bannon and Rebekah Mercer - that Cambridge Analytica began an ambitious data-gathering program that included tapping into the Facebook profiles of 50 million users through the use of a personality-testing app. The company did that with the help of a Russian American psychologist at Cambridge University, Aleksandr Kogan, who also made regular visits back to Russia, according to Wylie.

Wylie said he and others at Cambridge Analytica were initially skeptical of the power of this tactic for gathering data. But when the company approved $US1000 for Kogan to experiment with his app, he produced data on 1000 people who downloaded it and roughly 160,000 of their friends - all in a matter of hours.

Cambridge Analytica next approved $US10,000 for a second round of testing and was rewarded with nearly a million records, including names, home towns, dates of birth, religious affiliations, work and educational histories, and preferences, as expressed using the popular Facebook "like" button on many social media updates, news stories and other online posts.

They soon married that data with voter lists and commercial data broker information and discovered they had a remarkably precise portrait of a large swath of the American electorate.

Kogan's app, called "thisisyourdigitallife" and portrayed as being for research purposes, gathered data on the 270,000 people who downloaded it and tens of millions of their Facebook friends. It was this data and others that Wylie later worried might have ended up in Russian hands.

"I'm not saying that we put it on a drive and posted it to Vladimir Putin on Number 1 Red Square," Wylie said, referring to the Russian president's official residence. But he said that he and others affiliated with Cambridge Analytica briefed Lukoil, a Russian oil company, on its research into American voters. 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Guardian, 14 May 2017:

What was not known, until February, was the relationship between all these figures and the Leave campaign. That was when Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s communications director, revealed to this paper that Farage was a close friend of both Bannon and Mercer. He said that the Leave campaign was a “petri dish” for the Trump campaign. “We shared a lot of information because what they were trying to do and what we were trying to do had massive parallels.”

Wigmore also said that Mercer had been “happy to help” and Cambridge Analytica had given its services to the campaign for free. It was the general secretary of Ukip, a British lawyer called Matthew Richardson, who effected Leave.eu’s introduction to Cambridge Analytica, Wigmore said. “We had a guy called Matthew Richardson who’d known Nigel for a long time and he’s always looked after the Mercers. The Mercers hadsaid that here’s this company that we think might be useful.”

He said that Mercer, Farage and co had all met at a conference in Washington. “The best dinner we ever went to. Around that table were all the rejects of the political world. And the rejects of the political world are now effectively in the White House. It’s extraordinary. Jeff Sessions. [Former national security adviser Michael] Flynn, the whole lot of them. They were all there.”

When the Observer revealed Mercer’s “help” in February, a “gift” of services, it triggered two investigations. One by the Information Commissioner’s Office about possible illegal use of data. And another by the Electoral Commission. Cambridge Analytica is a US company and Mercer is a US citizen and British law, designed to protect its electoral system from outside influence, expressly forbids donations from foreign – or impermissible – donors. The commission is also looking into the “help” that Gunster gave the campaign. It was not declared in Leave.EU’s spending returns and if donated, it would also be impermissible. Gavin Millar QC, an expert in electoral law, says it raises questions of the utmost importance about the influence of an American citizen in a UK election.

But the contents of this document raise even more significant and urgent questions. Coordination between campaigns destroys the “level playing field” on which UK electoral law is based. It creates an unfair advantage.

Millar said that one of the significant and revealing aspects of the arrangement was that it was hidden. “It’s the covert nature of the relationship between these two companies and campaigns that I find particularly revealing and alarming. If there is covert cooperation via offshore entities, [it] is about as serious a breach of the funding rules as one can imagine in the 21st century.”

Millar said that this case was without precedent. “To have a billionaire so directly buying influence in a British election is absolutely unheard of. This is completely out of the ordinary. And what’s clear is that our electoral laws are hopelessly inadequate. The only way we would be able to find the truth of what happened is through a public inquiry.”

The link between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ was never supposed to come to light. And it is still uncertain how Vote Leave came to work with AggregateIQ.
There are several major Tory donors and pro-Brexit figures associated with Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections, including Lord Marland, former treasurer of the Conservative party and head of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. The pro-Brexit Tory donor Roger Gabb, the owner of South African wine company Kumala, is also a shareholder and was involved in one of the Leave campaigns. In a separate incident he was fined £1,000 by the Electoral Commission for failing to include “imprints” – or campaign branding – on newspaper ads.

The Observer revealed last week that two core members of the Vote Leave team used to work with both Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ. Cummings said that he found the company – on which he spent by far the biggest chunk of his campaign budget – “on the internet”.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Digital, Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeOral evidence: Fake News, HC 363, Tuesday 27 February 2018, Ordered by the House of Commons to be published on 27 February 2018.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cambridge Analytica is currently under investigation in the UK with the Information Commissioner's Office entering the company's London office under search warrant on 23 March 2018.

Friday, 23 March 2018

The president doth protest too much, methinks


On 15 March 2018 the mainstream media reported that the Special Counsel Russia Investigation has served a subpoena on the Trump Organisation.

Since then US President Donald J Trump has removed an FBI deputy-director and tweeted his defiance of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

As usual the only words in Trump's tweets that can be relied on are connecting words like "and", "or" & "but'  - everthing else is bound to be a distortion of fact or a downright lie.



Wednesday, 21 March 2018

The 'new' business model in politics


"It's no good fighting an election campaign on the facts because actually it's all about emotion."

Proof that a business model of election campaigning has come off the pages of a Hollywood screenplay and out onto the streets of everyday Australia (video at 5:54).



Monday, 19 March 2018

Trump brings out the knives in his effort to derail the FBI-Mueller investigation into Russian involvment in his presidential campaign


What occurred.....

Andrew McCabe became acting head of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after the sudden firing of James B. Comey on 9 May 2017 and, as acting head gave evidence before a US Senate committee in which he contradicted the WhiteHouse’s assertion that James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director fired by PresidentTrump...had lost the support of rank-and-file F.B.I. agents.

US President Donald Trump's reaction was hostile across multiple tweets over the following months and he implied that McCabe might be fired before he could retire.  



On 15 March 2018 The New York Times reported:

WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization in recent weeks to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known instance of the special counsel demanding records directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.

Following hard on the heels of the Comey firing Mueller had been appointed to conduct an investigation into Russian links to Trump's 2015- 2016 presidential campaign.

The following day, 16 March, U.S. ABC News reported:

Former FBI deputy director Andy McCabe was fired Friday from the federal government, just two days before he was set to retire, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in a statement late Friday night.

Nearly 24 hours earlier, McCabe was inside the Justice Department making the case to keep his job until Sunday when he officially qualifies for retirement benefits. His firing means his full pension — built after nearly 22 years in government — is in jeopardy.

After formal announcement of the McCabe sacking Trump tweeted this:


That Trump's move against McCabe is a step on the road to firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller might be inferred from the Dowd quote below. 

According to The Daily Beast  on 17 March 2018:

“I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier,” Dowd then wrote.
He told The Daily Beast he was speaking on behalf of the president, in his capacity as the president’s attorney.

McCabe's response.....

Statement released by Andrew McCabe's lawyer - sourced from Twitter