The spectacular victory of Donald Trump in the November 8 2016 US presidential election took the world by storm, and after over one year of an equally sensational presidency, it turns out the mogul had one powerful help – Facebook.
Recent discoveries show that the most reverberating incident in a year of political tumult traces back to the ever growing influence of social media, after the suspended chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix admitted that his UK-based political consultancy’s online campaign played a decisive role in Trump’s 2016 election victory.
Nix’s comments are potentially a further problem for Facebook as it faces lawmakers’ scrutiny in the United States and Europe over Cambridge Analytica’s improper use of 50 million Facebook users’ personal data to target voters and swing the election in Trump’s favour.
The stunning revelation has seen the social media network’s shares fall for a second day, closing down 2.5 percent as the company loses nearly $50 billion of its stock market value, Reuters writes.
Nix describes questionable practices used to influence foreign elections and said his firm did all the research, analytics and targeting of voters for Trump’s digital and TV campaigns. He also boasts he met Trump when he was the Republican presidential candidate “many times”.
Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica, reportedly brought into the 2016 campaign effort by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and now senior adviser, has denied all the media claims and said it deleted the data after learning the information did not adhere to data protection rules.
It is understood that former Trump adviser Steve Bannon approved spending nearly $1 million to acquire data, including Facebook profiles in the aggressive media campaign.
In the wake of the discovery, U.S. and European lawmakers have demanded an explanation of how Cambridge Analytica gained access to user data in 2014 and why Facebook failed to inform its users.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the leading U.S. consumer regulator, is reviewing whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree it reached with the authority over its privacy practices.
Facebook and its peers Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter already face a backlash from users and lawmakers over their role during the U.S. presidential election by allowing the spread of false information (Fake News) that might have swayed voters toward Trump.
The company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been called to testify in Congress over the privacy breach while House Intelligence Committee Democrats plan to interview Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie in furtherance of their probe into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Reacting to the development, the White House said it welcomed inquiries, and that the president believes that Americans’ privacy should be protected.
Created in 2013, Cambridge Analytica markets itself as a source of consumer research, targeted advertising and other data-related services to both political and corporate clients.
It was reportedly launched with $15 million in backing from billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer, referred to the company by Bannon.
Facebook has since suspended both Cambridge Analytica and SCL (Strategic Communication Laboratories), a government and military contractor linked to it.