Cambridge Analytica suspends its CEO as British TV airs a secret recording of him
The board of Cambridge Analytica said Tuesday that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix pending a full independent investigation of his actions.
In announcing the suspension, the British data mining company’s board cited comments Nix made to an undercover reporter for Britain’s Channel 4 News and other allegations of wrongdoing.
The board said Nix’s comments “do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view the violation.”
The board said in an announcement posted on the company’s website that the suspension was effective immediately.
Days ago, the New York Times and Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported that Cambridge Analytica used data, including user “likes,” that had been inappropriately obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections.
On Tuesday night, Britain’s Channel 4 News broadcast a report in which Nix — secretly recorded by the undercover reporter — said that his company played a major role in securing Donald Trump’s narrow victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy,” says Nix, whose company is being investigated by British officials for its handling of personal data.
The undercover reporter was posing as a wealthy potential client seeking to use Cambridge Analytica to influence campaigns in Sri Lanka. As part of a sales pitch, Nix says his company used emails set with a “self-destruct timer” during the Trump campaign to make its role more difficult to trace.
“So you send them and after they’ve been read, two hours later, they disappear,” he said. “There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.”
He also told the undercover reporter that there could be no U.S. investigation of his foreign clients because “they have no jurisdiction.”
Nix claims to have met Trump “many times,” but doesn’t provide details.
Channel 4 quotes Mark Turnbull, another senior figure at Cambridge Analytica, as saying the company can create “proxy organizations” to feed negative material about opposition candidates onto the internet and social media.
He says “charities or activist groups” are useful for this purpose. The material spreads over the internet, he says, but has no branding and can’t be traced back to the company.
Nix has denied the company did anything wrong or put out inaccurate information. The company says it has complied with all regulations and is cooperating with British information officials.
12:40 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information about the Cambridge Analytica board’s announcement.
This article was originally published at 12:15 p.m.
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