Alexander Nix, the head of analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, has been caught on camera boasting about his company’s ability to blackmail politicians through bribes and honeytraps, as well as using fake news campaigns to influence election campaigns across the world.
Cambridge Analytica have been at the centre of a data breach storm since Saturday after media reports claimed the consultancy had harvested the private data of more than 50 million Facebook users to help the Trump campaign in the 2016 United States presidential election.
An undercover reporter from Britain’s Channel 4 News posed as a fixer, seeking support from the company to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka, in footage that was broadcast on Monday.
In one of four meetings with Cambridge Analytica executives, Mr Nix gave examples of how the firm discredited rival candidates by filming them being offered fake cash bribes and paying sex workers to seduce them.
“We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign, in exchange for land for instance; we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the internet,” Mr Nix told the undercover reporter.
The analytics company's chief executive said the firm could also “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls worked well.
Mr Nix is heard saying: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.”
He later clarified that these were just examples of “what can be done, and what has been done”.
One of the company’s executives Mark Turnbull also described how the company could work in countries around the world, using teams under a different name.
“We’ve just used a different organisation to run a very, very successful project in an Eastern European country where they did a really... no one even knew they were there; they just drift, they were just ghosted in, did the work, ghosted out and produced really, really good material," Mr Turnbull was recorded saying. "So we have experience in doing this.”
Mr Nix discussed Cambridge Analytica’s use of former spies from the UK and Israel to dig up what he termed “really damaging source material, that we can decide how to deploy in the course of the campaign”.
In response to the Channel 4 News investigation, Cambridge Analytica said in a statement: “We entirely refute any allegation that Cambridge Analytica or any of its affiliates use entrapment, bribes or so-called ‘honeytraps’ for any purpose whatsoever.
“Cambridge Analytica does not use untrue material for any purpose.”
On Monday, British politicians called for Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to explain how Cambridge Analytica had been able to gain access to the data of more than 50 million people.
Whistleblower Christopher Wylie claimed in interviews that the company had taken the data without users’ permission during the 2016 US election campaign to profile voters and influence their choices at the ballot.