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Archive for November, 2018

Peeling Back The Layers That Hide The Real Nigel Farage Part 1 …

Posted by Greg Lance - Watkins (Greg_L-W) on 25/11/2018

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Peeling Back The Layers That Hide The Real Nigel Farage Part 1 …
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Posted by:
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The corruption of EUkip’s leadership,
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Hi,

Who is the real Nigel Farage… and why won’t he answer my questions?

Trump… Russian TV… key witnesses in Robert Mueller’s investigation. The jokey ‘bloke with a pint’ now has a network that spreads well beyond the UK. Our reporter has spent months on the trail of Mr Brexit…

The first time I call Nigel Farage live on air on his LBC radio show, I give my real name. It’s Sunday 10 June 2018, the day the Observer reports that Arron Banks, the main funder of Farage’s Leave.EU campaign, had not one (as he had claimed), but several meetings with the Russian ambassador in the run-up to the EU referendum.

“What do you want to say to Nigel?” the producer asks. “I want to talk about how the funder of his campaign has systematically lied about his relationship with the Russian government,” I say. “I can’t put you through,” the producer says, an edge of panic in her voice. “Come on,” I say. “You’re a journalist. You know these are important questions. “I’m standing in,” she says. “I’m not the usual producer.” She promises to speak to her editor and call me back.

No one calls me back.

Two days later, I try again. Banks and his business partner Andy Wigmore, the spokesman for the Leave.EU campaign, are on the show to “answer questions”. It’s an interview in the best traditions of a Stalinist show trial – the man asking them the questions is the man whose campaign they funded – but even so, they sound spooked. It’s the only occasion in my time of reporting on them that I’ve heard them so subdued and serious.

There’s never been an issue with me discussing Farage on other LBC shows such as James O’Brien’s, but, again, I can’t get through. Minutes later, a friend does, and passes me the phone. Actually, I say, just as Farage has built up a head of steam about the Trump-Russia “witch hunt”, it’s Carole Cadwalladr from the Guardian and Observer. “I don’t want to talk to Carole Cadwalladr of the Guardian!” Farage says. In the video of the moment, you can see him frantically motioning his producer with his eyes. The phone line is cut.

Quick Guide

The rightwing world of Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage is so regularly on our airwaves and quoted in the press, but he is rarely held to account. At this point I’ve been writing about him for almost two years, and I have no way of asking him questions. His PR man almost never responds to messages. Doesn’t respond to interview requests.

And then on 7 September this year we finally meet. He’s on tour with a one-man show entitled An Entertaining Evening With Nigel Farage, which has just landed – somewhat bizarrely – in Melbourne, Australia. Everything is a bit different here. The day before the event, I receive a notification of a change of venue (were ticket sales perhaps not what Farage might have hoped?). The event has been moved from a mid-sized arena to the conference room of a city centre hotel.

What’s more, to get in, I have to fight my way through what feels like a running street battle. In Melbourne, Farage isn’t known as the Ukip man off the radio and telly. “He’s Donald Trump’s fascist sidekick and we don’t want his type here,” claims one of the protesters. He’s holding a placard that depicts Farage as a pig.

Inside, it’s different. The audience – overwhelmingly male, surprisingly young – laps up his well-rehearsed bonhomie. And afterwards, for an extra A$200 on my ticket fee, I get to hang out backstage with a select crowd drinking bad white wine. And then, here he is.

Hello, Nigel, I say, and introduce myself. He blinks. But, he doesn’t flee for the exit. Not straight away. It’s been frustrating, I say, because I’ve just wanted to ask you some direct questions. Will you do a proper interview with me?

“Well, I don’t know!” he says, with a flash of the trademark Farage charm. “Maybe. It depends what mood I’m in. I don’t work for you. I don’t have to do it, do I?”

No, I say, but you’re a public figure. You’re funded by taxpayers. The European Union funds you. We pay taxes that pay for you.

“Well, who funds you?” he says. “The Observer funds me,” I say.

“George Soros, is it?”

I can’t quite believe that he’s said this, apparently in all seriousness. Banks has also accused me of being funded by Soros. And I’ve heard Farage using the phrase in the European parliament. It’s a reference to George Soros, the Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist, who after the fall of communism, funded democracy-building institutions and movements across eastern Europe. He became a hate figure to the Russian government, who launched a propaganda campaign portraying him as a meddling Jewish banker.

Loading video
Watch video of the moment Nigel Farage hung up on Carole Cadwalladr.

What “funded by Soros” really means is: “funded by Jews”. It signals antisemitism to an audience without saying it directly. But the only audience is me. I’m gobsmacked. Could he actually believe this stuff?

“George Soros doesn’t fund me!” I say. “How could George Soros fund me?”

“Well I don’t know!” Farage says. “You think the Russians fund me!”

And then his minder appears. I have moments to put my question, the question that kicked it all off. Why did you visit Julian Assange? I say in a hurry.

“LBC organised that,” he says. “You seem to be so stuck in your sad little world. They sent me. LBC wanted the interview. You can’t seem to get that into your mind. Why would my press officer, I mean my producer, come with me?”

And then he’s gone.

It’s the briefest of brief encounters and yet our exchange is so instructive. Because from the Kremlin, “Soros” as a political smear spread to the likes of Hungary’s demagogue-in-training, Viktor Orbán, and was picked up a year ago by Farage. When the Electoral Commission opened an investigation into the sources of Arron Banks’s funding a year ago, Farage made a speech in the European parliament in which he blamed this development on Soros. “This is where the real international political collusion is.” From Britain, it leapfrogged to the US, where it’s been deployed by Trump supporters about the “caravans” of immigrants heading for the US border with Mexico. Last week, it descended to the final circle of this hell: Facebook. The New York Times reported that after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook hired a right-leaning opposition research firm who used accusations of “Soros funding” to smear the company’s critics. In a way, the anti-Soros propaganda illuminates everything I’ve been trying to understand about Farage’s place in today’s world: that he represents a bridge between the authoritarian far right parties of central and eastern Europe that are aligned with Russia, and Trump’s America.

It all feels a long way from West Kent golf club and the undulating greens outside Farage’s childhood home. His autobiography describes his time at Dulwich college from 1975 to 1982 (he left the public school with few if any O-levels – accounts vary), and how a meeting at the golf club led to his first job as a commodities trader on the London Metal Exchange with a minor City firm. For years, this has been the image that Farage has cultivated. The tweed jackets. The pints. The Little Englander who lived modestly in a Kent suburban home and spoke to Britain’s G&T belt. Even in 2014, he said in an interview that he realised he must reach beyond his core base, which he describes as “very middle class, very below the M4, ex-military”.

This is no longer Farage’s world. He left that world far behind some time ago. But there’s a time lag in Britain in understanding this. In understanding Farage’s relationships with the European far right. And in understanding that he’s using the same playbook as the Kremlin, Steve Bannon (Donald Trump’s former chief strategist) and Robert Mercer, who for a long time funded Bannon’s pet projects, including alt-right news site Breitbart, and Cambridge Analytica.

Here in the UK, Farage is still cosy Mr Brexit. He’s been touring the country running “Leave Means Leave” rallies – I went to one in a retail park in Bolton – where talk of medicine running out and lorries backed up on the motorway was denounced as yet more “Project Fear”. He’s the man who holds fast to an ideologically pure Brexit vision untainted by the realpolitik of Theresa May’s compromises. The man who broadcasts live on LBC five times a week and pops up on the BBC.

Critically, in Britain, where political coverage follows the beat of Westminster’s drum, we have yet to really catch up with Farage’s uncomfortable new position: in overlapping circles radiating from US special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Could this be why Farage is avoiding me? He has refused to answer my questions for more than 18 months, since I wrote a report for the Observer – headlined When Nigel Farage met Julian Assange – published on 23 April last year. It posed a series of questions to which there are still no clear answers. Questions that, it’s become increasingly clear, cover some of the same territory that Mueller is circling.

Visiting Trump Tower in New York in December 2016 shortly after Donald Trump was elected president of the US.
Visiting Trump Tower in New York in December 2016 shortly after Donald Trump was elected president of the US. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Farage was caught tripping down the steps of the Ecuadorean embassy by a reporter from BuzzFeed. “Nigel Farage just visited the Ecuadorean embassy in London,” the headline said. And the story said: “Asked by BuzzFeed News if he’d been visiting Julian Assange, the former Ukip leader said he could not remember what he had been doing in the building.”

The visit had come shortly after Farage had visited Donald Trump in Washington. BuzzFeed’s story involved three individuals, Trump, Assange and Farage, who were at the centre of the political storms that had changed the world in 2016 and raised a new set of questions.

Last week, 20 months after Farage’s meeting with Assange, LBC issued a statement about it: “It was an exploratory meeting to discuss the possibility of an interview for the station. This preliminary meeting amounted to nothing, which is why LBC has not previously commented on the context in which the meeting took place as this would not be customary. Whilst Nigel Farage attended the meeting, it was not set up at his instigation.”

It was the timings around the visit that raised questions. Farage left the embassy around noon. BuzzFeed’s story appeared at 1.31pm. At 2.28pm WikiLeaks made an announcement: it would host a live press conference with Assange about his latest leak, “Vault 7”, about mass CIA surveillance. This was during a week when things had started to look serious for Trump. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general, had been caught lying under oath about two meetings with the Russian ambassador and recused himself from the Russia inquiry. The “Vault 7” story , which landed US tech companies in the middle of CIA cyber-espionage, erupted on to the news cycle. It blew Russia off the front pages.

Later, in June 2017, the Guardian reported that Farage was a “person of interest” to the FBI. Last week Farage told the Sunday Times he had not spoken to Mueller’s team: “I’ve done nothing wrong, so why would I worry about it? I mean, it’s very funny, deranged.”

We don’t know if Farage is involved in the Russian intelligence operation that Mueller is so painstakingly unpicking. The investigation is in lockdown. But we know almost certainly that Assange is involved. An FBI indictment unsealed on 13 July said that at the heart of Russia’s operation to subvert the US presidential election is “Organization 1”, widely reported to be WikiLeaks.

It’s Mueller who’s identified this. It’s the FBI indictments that reveal that so many strands of the investigation run through London.

The third time I call Farage at LBC is 1 November 2018, the day Arron Banks is referred to the National Crime Agency because the Electoral Commission had decided it can’t be sure of the source of Banks’s multimillion-pound donation to Farage’s Leave.EU campaign. Or even that it came from Britain.

This time I’m “Claire from Ashford, Kent”. I’ve been thinking about Remembrance Sunday, I tell Farage. “It’s a real time to feel patriotic about our laws and sovereignty,” I say. “It certainly is,” says Farage. “It’s why I’m so concerned about these reports about not knowing where Arron Banks’s money comes from,” I say.

“I’m not discussing spending in the referendum here and now, Claire!” says Farage. The line goes dead.

Who is Nigel Farage? It’s no longer clear. When I Google “Nigel Farage” and “Soros”, I end up watching a video on the far-right conspiracy theory website InfoWars, in which Farage is being interviewed by its founder, Alex Jones. InfoWars Farage is very far from LBC Farage – even though the video is shot inside LBC’s studio, with the LBC logo behind him. This Farage talks about our shared “Judeo-Christian culture”. (Words not often heard, I can’t help thinking, in West Kent golf club.)

This is Steve Bannon’s language. The language of “globalists” and what Bannon pitches as an all-out war against the “elites”, an all-out war he’s now bringing to Europe with his latest project, a pan-European far-right coalition that he calls the Movement.

At a Trump rally in Mississippi in August 2016.
At a Trump rally in Mississippi in August 2016. Photograph: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

“Farage has always followed the money,” a Ukip insider, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells me. “He knows which side his bread is buttered. When the US alt-right and evangelicals started supporting him, he became just like them.” And when I ask Greg Lance-Watkins, another key ex-Ukiper, how he’d describe his ideology he says: “Farage’s ideology is Farage.” In the 90s, Lance-Watkins used to advise Farage before his Question Time appearances. “He’s scared of the trick question. That’s why he won’t speak to you.

“He’s scared of you, because you confuse him. It’s like the old adage, don’t ask a question you don’t know the answer to. He doesn’t know what answer you’re looking for.”

But then neither do I.

It’s not until I sit through An Entertaining Evening With Nigel Farage in Melbourne that I realise he’s not just a seven-times failed UK parliamentary candidate, but a bona fide YouTube star. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without YouTube,” Farage tells his audience of young men. Men who, when I ask, what do you think of Nigel Farage, say: “He’s an absolute legend.” Or: “He’s the dog’s bollocks.”

How did you come across him, I ask, Alex, a programmer who lives locally? “On YouTube. I was watching a Jordan Peterson video. He was recommended to me.”

It’s an eye-opening moment. Jordan Peterson is the Canadian psychologist whose forthright views on women and why feminism is wrong have made him an alt-right YouTube breakout star. YouTube’s algorithm had connected him to Farage.

Loading video
One of RT’s many uploads of Farage speeches in the European parliament.

I watch the speeches. They have titles like “Who the Hell [sic] You Think You Are? Nigel Farage throws egg in Eurocrat faces.” And “Can’t Barrage the Farrage [sic].” They’ve been viewed millions upon millions of times.

Richard Corbett, the leader of the Labour party in the European parliament, explains how it works. “Farage turns up once a month and often what he talks about has absolutely nothing to do with what’s being discussed. You think, what’s going on? And then you realise it’s got nothing to do with the parliament. It’s just for his social media output. Sometimes he doesn’t even hang around for the answers. Two minutes later, he’s back on the Eurostar and gone.” (Statistics for voting and attendances show Farage is ranked 738th out of 751 MEPs for productivity.)

It’s these YouTube set-piece speeches, pumped via the site’s algorithm to the phones and laptops of an entirely new generation, that are Farage’s power base now. And, at the centre of this, is RT (formerly Russia Today), the Kremlin-controlled English-language broadcaster. RT made Farage a YouTube star.

Much of this story, like Arron Banks’s relationship with the Russian ambassador, is hidden and covert. But there’s also much that is out in the open, like Farage’s support of pro-Russian parties in the European parliament, and his association with RT.

Guillaume Chaslot, an ex-YouTuber who’s now an adviser for the Center for Humane Technology, explains RT’s all-conquering role in the YouTube ecosystem. “They’re the biggest information network on YouTube. They’ve 22 channels and they have an absolute masterful understanding of how the algorithm works. They make this incredibly effective clickbait content – disaster videos of the tsunami and so on, and they use it to suck in traffic. And when they have the eyeballs, they use their understanding of the algorithm to send people to political content that supports their foreign policy aims.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

RT recognised Farage’s value way back in 2011. An ex-Ukip insider tells me how RT’s London correspondent “practically lived inside Ukip’s offices. They targeted Gerard Batten first [the current leader of Ukip] and then Farage. They loved it. RT would ask them on every week. They’d talk about anything.” Batten did not respond to the Observer’s questions about his relationship with RT.

Farage is “phenomenally useful for the Russian government,” Ben Nimmo, a leading researcher into Russian online propaganda, tells me. “The thing about RT is that they are completely open about what it is. The editor-in-chief has described it as ‘information warfare’. She has said it’s as much a part of Russia’s arsenal as its ministry of defence.”

All this is out in the open, but the Observer has been shown emails that reveal something new. The person who used to upload Farage’s videos to YouTube was an EU parliament staffer called Kevin Ellul Bonici. According to a Guardian report last year, sources inside the European parliament said Ellul Bonici – who did not respond to the allegations – was “a frequent visitor to the Russian embassy”, after which he would return with “a bootload of propaganda”, and was subject to an internal investigation. The new emails seen by the Observer show that Bonici was uploading content not just to the official Ukip channel but also uploading it “on a private channel” for “the many fringe websites”.

There is no evidence that Farage knew about Ellul Bonici’s alleged relationship with the Russian embassy. When asked about all of the issues in this article, a spokesman for Farage said: “Mr Farage has no desire to speak to you under any circumstances.” The Observer could not reach Ellul Bonici for comment.

The Observer has also learned new details about a meeting between Nigel Farage and Roger Stone. Stone is the extraordinary peroxide-blond 66-year-old dandy, a self-styled “dirty trickster” who’s played a key role in many political scandals since Watergate, and who is central to Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation. On 8 August 2016, Stone told a small crowd that he’d been in touch with Assange. There would be a WikiLeaks “October surprise”, he suggested, about “the Clinton foundation”. In later comments he correctly forecast both the source of the leak and the timing of it. It is this claim to have knowledge of WikiLeaks’ material – before WikiLeaks released it – that is believed to have piqued Mueller’s intense interest.

Mueller is looking at timings of all this. The timeline of who knew about WikiLeaks’ stash of emails from Democrat accounts, and when. Emails that we now know were hacked by the Russian government and that threw the presidential race into chaos just days before the US presidential election.

Stone and his associates have been questioned by Mueller many times. Some of those associates of Stone are Farage’s associates too: InfoWars journalist Jerome Corsi, Steve Bannon and the controversial academic Ted Malloch, once tipped by Farage to be Trump’s ambassador to the EU.

US political strategist and former Trump adviser Roger Stone, who had dinner with Farage in July 2016 at the Republican National Convention.
US political strategist and former Trump adviser Roger Stone, who had dinner with Farage in July 2016 at the Republican National Convention. Photograph: John Sciulli/Getty Images

Stone makes his own appearance in the timeline. One of the film-makers behind the brilliant 2017 documentary Get Me Roger Stone, Daniel DiMauro, spoke to me about a meeting that he witnessed between Stone, Alex Jones and Farage during the Republican National Convention, 18-21 July 2016.

“Stone had arranged to have dinner with Alex Jones and Nigel Farage,” he tells me. And they followed him with the camera crew. “But we got to the restaurant and Farage’s people were: ‘No, no, no! You can’t film. You can’t film.’ It was weird. Jones and Stone were totally open to it. But Farage was ‘No way’. He didn’t want any record of it. We didn’t know what to make of it.

Another member of the crew told me: “It was the first time that Alex Jones, Roger Stone and Nigel Farage met face to face. We’d had a wire on Roger everywhere we went but when we turned up to meet Farage and his guy, he [Farage’s aide] was absolutely adamant.

“What was so noticeable was how Alex Jones was so pumped up afterwards about the leaks that were coming. He was saying it openly on his show. And then days later, the DNC leaks dropped [on July 22] and blew apart the Democratic National Convention.”

Less than two weeks later, on August 4, 2016, Roger Stone would also go on Alex Jones’s radio show and trail a new release. There would be “proof” of a scandal involving “Clinton Foundation”, a new “devastating” leak. “I think Julian Assange has that proof,” he said.

In 2017, a spokesman for Farage told the American magazine Mother Jones: “Nigel met Roger Stone in a restaurant in Cleveland during the RNC purely by chance. They subsequently met each other in a hotel in Washington during Trump’s inauguration, again without planning and by chance.”

If you had to pick another extraordinary story about Nigel Farage’s associates, George Cottrell would have to feature. Aged just 22, he was appointed Farage’s aide and Ukip’s chief fundraiser during the Brexit campaign. The two were at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on 22 July, 2016 – the day after the Republican convention in Cleveland at which Farage met Jones and Stone.

Arron Banks – who was also there – describes what happened in his memoir, the Bad Boys of Brexit: “As they were alighting from the domestic flight, five FBI officers cuffed him [Cottrell]. They swooped the minute he set foot on the gangway and if Wiggy [Andy Wigmore] hadn’t been standing right behind him, nobody would have known what had happened. All the other passengers were held back. It was swift and discreet, and he was hauled off without explanation.”

Cottrell was subsequently charged with 21 offences, including money laundering, fraud, blackmail and extortion. He pleaded guilty to one of them and was released after eight months in jail. In an interview with the Telegraph, he explained how he’d learned about “the murky and complicated world of ‘shadow banking’” and had worked for “an offshore private bank” that was “under investigation by the US authorities as a foreign financial institution of primary money-laundering concern”. There is no suggestion in the charges that this was linked to Ukip. Cottrell did not respond to the Observer’s attempts to reach him.

Arron Banks with George Cottrell, the Farage aide arrested and jailed in the US.
Arron Banks with George Cottrell, the Farage aide arrested and jailed in the US. Photograph: Elliott Franks/i-Images

But the biggest questions are about why Farage’s team sent confidential legal documents about Cottrell’s arrest to the Russian embassy in London. In June, the Observer was shown confidential emails that revealed that Andy Wigmore emailed Cottrell’s legal documents including his federal indictment to his main contact at the embassy, the political secretary, Alexander Udod. (Udod was expelled from Britain in March this year after Sergei Skirpal’s poisoning.)

According to Banks’s emails, on 17 August 2016, Banks and Wigmore were inside the Russian embassy, visiting the ambassador Alexander Yakovenko. This was also the day that Bannon took over as Trump’s campaign manager. On 25 August, Farage, Banks and Wigmore travelled to a Trump rally in Mississippi where Farage joined Trump on stage. The crowd roared. Here was “Mr Brexit,” said Trump. The election, he said, would be “Brexit plus, plus, plus.”

The fourth time I call Nigel Farage’s LBC show is just a week ago. Late on Saturday night, the Observer published its latest revelations about Arron Banks and the Leave.EU campaign. An academic from Essex University, Emma Briant, had obtained emails from a Cambridge Analytica employee which revealed that Banks had sought Steve Bannon’s help in soliciting campaign donations from US funders. We have no idea if Banks went ahead and attempted to fundraise in the US. We know only that it would have been illegal for him if he had. Using foreign money in a British election campaign is against the law.

But we do know the US “alt-right” played a role. On the day that Theresa May triggered article 50, 29 March 2017, a journalist from Breitbart, the rightwing news website cofounded by Steve Bannon, caught Farage with a pint of beer, outside a pub, beaming. He lifts his glass to the camera. “Well done, Bannon. Well done, Breitbart. You helped with this hugely.”

In Britain, Farage is still the man with the pint. The Good Bloke. The kind of man you wouldn’t mind having a drink with. The plucky survivor of both testicular cancer and, on the day of the 2010 general election, a spectacular plane crash. And the press coverage of him – such as an interview with him in last week’s Sunday Times – still trades in Farage cliches. Partly because, as his former colleague Lance-Watkins tells me: “He is that man. He’s hail-fellow-well-met. He likes people and he has that natural bonhomie. He did so well on Question Time because it was a form that was perfectly made for him. But that’s just what’s going on, on the surface. It masks a profound insincerity.”

Farage meeting Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador, in 2013.
Farage meeting Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador, in 2013. Photograph: Russian Embassy

Farage sits at the intersection of the key forces in a new world order. An order that the old formats can’t cope with. What we need to ask is whether a man closely allied to people like Bannon and supportive of Viktor Orbán should be allowed to amplify his propaganda unchallenged on our broadcast media.

It’s the people who have studied the campaign most closely who are asking the most questions. Damian Collins, the Conservative MP leading parliament’s fake news and disinformation inquiry, has said that “the direct links between the political movements behind Brexit and Trump” urgently need investigating.

“We’ve got to recognise the bigger picture here,” he said recently. “This is being coordinated across national borders by very wealthy people in a way we haven’t really seen before.”

The committee has called repeatedly for a Mueller-style inquiry. The government continues to ignore it.

‘What’s your question for Nigel?” the LBC producer asks me when, last Sunday morning, I call in. This time I’m “Sarah from Weybridge”, a true-blue voter disgusted with Theresa May’s Brexit betrayal. “I’ll get you straight on,” says the producer. And he does.

Actually, I tell Farage, it’s Carole Cadwalladr from the Observer. “Oh go away,” he says. “Honestly, you are a ranting lunatic.”

It’s only later that I notice the date: 18 November. Exactly three years from when Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore launched Leave.EU’s campaign. From when they walked in the door of the Russian embassy and discussed gold and diamond deals. I’m not a ranting lunatic. I’m a journalist. Who’s been trying to ask questions for nearly two years.

Nigel Farage declined to answer any questions put to him about subjects raised in this article.

To view the original article CLICK HERE

Regards,
Greg_L-W.

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Posted in EU, EUkip, GL-W, GLW, Greg Lance - Watkins, Greg_L-W., UKIP | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Use of Facebook Data by Cambridge Analytica Broke British Law…

Posted by Greg Lance - Watkins (Greg_L-W) on 06/11/2018

 

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Use of Facebook Data by Cambridge Analytica Broke British Law…
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Posted by:
Greg Lance – Watkins
Greg_L-W

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The BLOG:
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The corruption of EUkip’s leadership,
their anti UKIP claque in POWER & the NEC

is what gives the remaining 10% a bad name!

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Hi,

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Arron Banks, a backer of Britain’s exit from the European Union, in June. The Information Commissioner’s Office found that the company he owns broke British law when it used customer data to aid the Brexit campaign. Credit CreditSimon Dawson/Reuters

LONDON — The defunct political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica violated British law when it used improperly harvested Facebook data to aid Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and would face a significant fine if it were not already in bankruptcy, Britain’s top data protection watchdog found Tuesday.

The long-awaited report by Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office, which has been investigating the misuse of personal data by political campaigns, also said an insurance company owned by Arron Banks, a main backer of Britain’s campaign to leave the European Union, broke British law when it used customer data to aid the Brexit effort.

According to the commissioner’s office, the company, Eldon Insurance, shared private email addresses to be sent campaign messages on behalf of Leave.EU, a pro-Brexit group, months before the 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union.

The 112-page report underscored how modern political campaigns rely on Facebook data and other consumer information, extracted or bought by consulting firms with little oversight and few protections for consumers. An investigation in March by The New York Times, The Observer of London and The Guardian revealed how Cambridge Analytica — at the time an upstart data firm bankrolled by the conservative billionaire Robert Mercer — had improperly obtained and exploited Facebook data from as many as 87 million users around the globe.

The commissioner’s investigation revealed that political campaigns in Britain had exercised little restraint in exploiting consumer data, despite the European Union’s relatively strict data laws. Political groups were acting more like online businesses and internet marketing firms to target and engage voters, the report concluded.

“We have uncovered a disturbing disregard for voters’ personal privacy,” the commissioner found.

The finding also adds to legal and political scrutiny of Mr. Banks, who was the single largest donor to the Brexit campaign. His dealings with the Russian ambassador ahead of the referendum have separately raised questions about whether the Kremlin sought to reward important backers of Britain’s exit from the European Union, and prompted British election officials last week to ask for a police investigation. In Washington, the special prosecutor, Robert S. Mueller III, has obtained records of Mr. Banks’s communications with Russian diplomats.

Now Mr. Banks’s insurance company and the Leave.EU campaign are facing total fines of 135,000 pounds, or about $177,000, for the privacy breaches, which occurred in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The insurance company owned by Mr. Banks will also be audited, the report said.

But the commissioner rejected accusations that Leave.EU secretly employed Cambridge Analytica — and possibly exploited its Facebook data haul — during the Brexit campaign, potentially violating British election disclosure laws. Though Cambridge Analytica considered working with Leave.EU, and even sent one executive to appear with Leave.EU officials at a news conference, the data company never reached an agreement with the campaign, the commissioner found.

Mr. Banks, sometimes described as the “godfather of Brexit,” has denied wrongdoing and was quick to rebuff the findings of the information commissioner’s office. The investigators “find no evidence of a grand data conspiracy and find we may have accidentally sent a newsletter to customers,” Mr. Banks said on Twitter.

But investigators specifically described an improper intermingling of data between Eldon Insurance, Mr. Bank’s company, and the Leave.EU campaign he co-founded.

Investigators said more than one million emails sent to Leave.EU supporters over two separate periods had also included marketing for Eldon Insurance services. Eldon customers also were sent a Leave.EU newsletter, an incident the company described as a mistake in managing an email distribution system.

The two organizations were already known to have close ties, including sharing board members.

The investigation began last year to look into the potential misuse of data in the British referendum on leaving the European Union. But it took on new urgency when The Times, The Observer and The Guardian revealed in March that Cambridge had improperly harvested the personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users without their consent.

The British investigation involved 71 witnesses, 30 organizations whose data practices were reviewed and 700 terabytes of data — the equivalent of 52 billion pages.

In an earlier report, issued in July, the Information Commissioner’s Office said it had fined Facebook £500,000, or about $660,000 — the maximum under British law — for allowing Cambridge Analytica to harvest user data.

In addition to the new details about Mr. Banks, Tuesday’s report provides more information about the investigation into how Cambridge Analytica obtained Facebook user data.

The investigation found that Cambridge had nimbly evaded what few restrictions Facebook imposed by contracting with an academic researcher working at Cambridge University, who used an app to harvest the data, almost all of it without the users’ explicit consent.

The political consulting firm teamed up with the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, who had created an application that collected demographic information, News Feed posts, friend lists, pages that users had liked and other data.

The information was used to create physiological profiles that could guide the targeting of political messages.

In March, officials obtained a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s offices, getting access to mobile phones, storage devices, computers and financial records. At one location, the authorities said, they discovered a number of physically damaged servers, from which investigators were able to recover information.

Investigators said the Information Commissioner’s Office needed more to time to review evidence, including Cambridge Analytica’s email system, to better determine who had access to data on Facebook users.

“There are several strands that will take us into the future,” said Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner.

Cambridge Analytica announced in May that it was ceasing most operations and filing for bankruptcy amid growing legal and political scrutiny of its business practices and work for the Trump campaign. The elections division of Cambridge’s British affiliate, SCL Group, was also shut down.

In its report on Tuesday, the information commissioner said that had the company still existed, it would have faced “a substantial fine for very serious breaches” or Britain’s data protection laws. The company, the report added, engaged in “unfairly processing people’s personal data for political purposes, including purposes connected with the 2016 U.S. presidential campaigns.”

The report did not draw any conclusions about whether data mining techniques used by Cambridge Analytica and others had determined the outcome of elections in the United States or Britain, but the regulator called on policymakers to draft new laws to restrict how data is collected and shared for political purposes.

“We may never know whether individuals were unknowingly influenced to vote a certain way in either the U.K. E.U. referendum or the U.S. election campaigns,” the report said. “But we do know that personal privacy rights have been compromised by a number of players and that the digital electoral ecosystem needs reform.”

Adam Satariano reported from London, and Nicholas Confessore from New York. Matthew Rosenberg contributed reporting from Washington.

To view the original article CLICK HERE

Regards,

Greg_L-W.

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