Cambridge Analytica has announced it has suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix as undercover footage was released of the company's bosses boasting about their role in getting Donald Trump elected as United States president.
Britain’s Channel 4 News sent an undercover reporter posing as a fixer to seek the services of the consultancy in getting a candidate elected in Sri Lanka.
Cambridge Analytica has been at the centre of a data breach storm since 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 US presidential election.
In footage broadcast on Monday night, the firm's boss Mr Nix was caught on camera boasting about his company's ability to entrap politicians through bribes and honeytraps.
Announcing his suspension, Cambridge Analytica said: “The board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect, pending a full, independent investigation.
“In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.”
In further damaging footage broadcast on Tuesday night, Mr Nix told the undercover reporter about being questioned by Republicans and Democrats about potential Russian meddling in the US election, implying it was easy because they did not know what they were talking about.
“We have no secrets. They’re politicians, they’re not technical. They don’t understand how it works,” he said, when asked about whether he was forced to testify.
He also discussed his working relationship with Mr Trump, adding that the company had been instrumental in his 2016 election success.
Mr Nix said candidates were always “puppets” in the control of their campaign team and did not know what was going on.
During one of four meetings with the undercover reporter, Mark Turnbull, managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s political division, bragged about his role in the “defeat Crooked Hillary” advertising campaign, through “unattributable means”.
“We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape,” said Mr Turnbull. “And so this stuff infiltrates the online community, but with no branding, so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”
Mr Turnbull said Cambridge Analytica had used “proxy organisations” to spread the messages in order to keep the company’s role as quiet as possible.
Another of the firm’s executives, head of data, Dr Alex Tayler, bragged that data had snatched victory for Mr Trump from his rival Mrs Clinton.
“When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes but won the electoral college vote that’s down to the data and the research,” Mr Tayler said.
“You did your rallies in the right locations, you moved more people out in those key swing states on election day. That’s how he won the election.”
Mrs Clinton told Channel 4 News on Tuesday: “There was a new kind of campaign that was being run on the other side, that nobody had ever faced before. Because it wasn’t just all about me. It was about how to suppress voters who were inclined to vote for me… when you have a massive propaganda effort to prevent people from thinking straight, because they’re being flooded with false information.”