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Cambridge Analytica Passed Voter Suppression Information Over to the 2016 Trump Campaign, New Report Claims

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  • A new report claims Donald Trump’s campaign disproportionately targeted Black voters in the 2016 presidential election in an attempt to dissuade them from voting.
  • According to Channel 4, Cambridge Analytica compiled that information and passed it to the Trump campaign as part of a “Deterrence” category.
  • While this practice is legal, through the use of Facebook ads, it also potentially targeted 3.5 million Black voters in many states that were ultimately decided in tight races. 
  • Trump’s re-election campaign has denied these reports, but according to Channel 4, the 2016 campaign’s chief scientist explicitly said the “Deterrence” category contained people that the campaign “hope don’t show up to vote.”

Cambridge Analytica Database

A new report claims Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign received and used data that disproportionately targeted Black voters in an attempt to discourage them from voting in the last presidential election.

The report, published by U.K. outlet Channel 4 News, alleges that the Trump campaign received a database on 200 million American voters from the now-defunct firm Cambridge Analytica. That firm attracted international scrutiny after it was found to have harvested millions of Facebook users’ personal data without their consent. 

In 2016, the Trump Campaign pumped $5.9 million into Cambridge Analytica. 

As The Washington Post puts it, this database “could add detail to allegations about Cambridge Analytica’s role in the campaign, particularly in efforts to harness Facebook’s powerful ad technologies to dissuade Black voters from supporting Hillary Clinton.”

According to Channel 4, which claims to have obtained the database made by Cambridge Analytica, the list of voters covers 16 key battleground states. Among those states, voters were then separated into eight different categories.

For example, likely Democratic voters were listed as either “Core Clinton,” “Disengaged Clinton,” or “Deterrence.” Channel 4 quoted the chief data scientist of Trump’s 2016 campaign as explicitly saying the “Deterrence” category contained people that the campaign “hope don’t show up to vote.”

Notably, more than half the people listed in that category were either Black, Asian, or Latino.

On top of that, while Black voters only make up about 5.4% of the voting population in Wisconsin, the database marked 17% of Black voters in the state for “Deterrence.” 

Likewise, in Michigan, Black voters accounted for 15% of the voting population in 2016; however, the database marked 33% of Black voters in the state for “Deterrence.”

Both races were extremely tight. In fact, Trump won Michigan by just 11,000 votes. At the same time, Black voter turnout in the state dropped by more than 12%.

Ties to the Trump Campaign

Channel 4 has not revealed how it obtained this database, but it does claim that Cambridge Analytica worked “hand in glove with a team from the Republican National Committee.”

Following the report, Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump’s reelection campaign, dismissed it as “fake news,” saying that Trump’s record gave him a “relationship of trust with African American voters.”

Paris Dennard, the RNC’s senior communications adviser for Black media affairs, affirmed that the data obtained by Channel 4 “is not our data.”

Matt Braynard, the Trump data director for the 2016 campaign, said his team didn’t use those categorizations. Instead, he said they relied on material from the party and another firm, L2 political. 

“Deterrence doesn’t mean suppression and it doesn’t mean deterrence from voting,” Braynard specified. “It just means deterrence from voting for Hillary Clinton.”

Many of the testimonies seem to conflict with one another. While Murtaugh has claimed the story is “fake news,” Braynard has seemingly admitted that this data is at least real. In addition to that, Braynard said the category wasn’t meant to be a full deterrence from voting, but Channel 4’s quote from the Trump data scientist indicates the direct opposite.

According to The Washington Post, Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica’s former director of business development, said Channel 4’s report is consistent with “her understanding of how Cambridge Analytica and Republicans targeted Black voters in 2016.”

Kaiser then provided The Post with an internal company document from 2016 which described a similar classification strategy for Democrats, including a category labelled “Deterrent.” 

Was This Legal?

The tactics described in the Channel 4 report are legal.

David Carroll, a professor at the Parsons School of Design in New York, called the database “a diabolically effective campaign tactic,” but added in a statement to The Post, “They’re just using free speech, even if it is misleading.”

Despite the tactic by Cambridge Analytica being legal, Channel 4 criticized Facebook for its role in airing ads potentially aimed at dissuading voters. Of particular note, during the 2016 Election, Facebook also employed “dark posts,” or ads that vanish from feeds after a campaign stops paying for them. 

Those ads make it difficult to go back and track how campaigns targeted specific groups, and that has become a major point of contention because the Trump Campaign pumped $44 million in such types of ads in 2016. 

Channel 4 was also critical of Facebook because it was seemingly the original source of information used to help create this database; however, Facebook has maintained that its information was improperly obtained and that Cambridge Analytica was in violation of its policies.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (USA Today)

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Voters in 4 States Received Emails Threatening Them To “Vote for Trump or Else!”

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  • Democratic voters in Alaska, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania received threatening emails telling them to vote for Trump or else the Proud Boys would “come after” them. 
  • The email came from a domain associated with the Proud Boys, but the group denied that it had any involvement and said that the website in question was no longer in use because it had been dropped by Google Cloud services.
  • According to The Washington Post, when the hosting service dropped the domain, it left it unsecured, meaning anyone online could take control of it.
  • Multiple outlets that reviewed the emails also reported that the messages did not come from the email address listed, but rather from foreign internet servers.

Threatening Emails

Registered Democrats in four different states — including three hotly contested swing states — were sent threatening emails Tuesday from an address that appeared to be affiliated with the far-right group the Proud Boys. The message warned recipients that if they did not vote for President Donald Trump, the group would “come after” them.

According to a screenshot of the email obtained by CBS News, the subject line of the message reads “Vote for Trump or else!”

“We are in possession of all your information (email, address, telephone… everything),” the body of the email said. The sender went on to claim they know the recipient of the email is a Democrat because they “gained access into the entire voting infrastructure.” 

Source: CBS News

“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” the email continued. “Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you.”

Outlets that obtained copies of the email also reported that it concluded with the home address of the recipients they were sent to. Currently, voters in Alaska, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania have reported receiving the threatening messages.

It remains unclear how many went out in total, but it does appear that most of them were sent to people in Florida and Alaska. In Alaska, local news outlets reported that the emails went out to over a dozen people. In Florida, a University of Florida spokesperson said that they knew of at least 183 Floridians who got the messages.

Officials in both states also announced that they have launched investigations, and the FBI was also looking into the matter.

Proud Boys Deny Involvement

While the sender’s address is listed info@officialproudboys.com, a domain associated with the Proud Boys, the group’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio, immediately denied that they had any involvement.

“We don’t send emails. This is someone spoofing our emails and website,” he told reporters. “We have spoken to the FBI and are working with them. I hope whoever did this is arrested for voter intimidation and for maliciously impersonating our group.”

Tarrio also told The Washington Post that the group has been in the process of migrating from officialproudboys.com to another site. In fact, they said officialproudboys.com has not been used for weeks because that domain was recently dropped by a hosting company that uses Google Cloud services after concerns were raised about the group.

According to The Post, when the hosting service dropped the domain, it appeared to just be left unsecured, and thus “allowing anyone on the Internet to take control of it and use it to send out the menacing messages.”

Numerous outlets that reviewed the emails also said that they did not come from the email address that was displayed, but rather from foreign internet servers. According to CBS, the metadata from the emails they analyzed showed that the messages originated from IP addresses connected to servers in Estonian, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

While experts noted that the IP addresses do not necessarily mean that the senders were based in those countries because they could have routed the emails from almost anywhere, some cybersecurity experts have pointed to the possibility of foreign interference to sow chaos in the election.

“We’re 2 weeks from the last day to vote! This is also the perfect time for adversaries to create chaos by spreading bogus claims or overstating activity,” Chris Krebs, the director of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency tweeting, noting that his office was aware of the emails.

“Ballot secrecy is guaranteed by law in all states,” he continued. “These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CBS News) (The New York Times)

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Exxon Clarifies That Quid Pro Quo Call With Trump “Never Happened”

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  • During a rally Monday, President Trump said he would outraise Biden in campaign donations if he asked corporations to donate money to his campaign in return for granting political favors.
  • He used an example of asking the CEO of Exxon to give his campaign $25 million in exchange for permits and licenses. 
  • The scenario the president described is a federal crime punishable by prison time, and in a statement shortly after, Exxon said that the call “never happened.”
  • Trump clarified that he would not ask for those donations because it would make him “compromised” and implied soliciting money from large companies would compel him to grant them political favors in return because he is “loyal.”
  • Many still condemned the president, arguing that even if it was a hypothetical, the kind of quid pro quo he detailed is almost exactly what he was impeached for, and given his track record, some believe it is possible that this is something he would do again.  

Exxon Refutes Call

After President Donald Trump told a crowd of rallygoers Monday that he could, in theory, call up the CEO of Exxon Mobil and ask him to donate to his campaign in exchange for political favors, the energy giant clarified that no such call had taken place.

“We are aware of the President’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO,” the company said in a tweet. “And just so we’re all clear, it never happened.” 

While speaking to the crowd in Prescott, Arizona, Trump addressed the fact that he is currently being handily out-raised by former Vice President Joe Biden by claiming that he would be “the greatest fund-raiser in history” if he collected bribes from companies in exchange for political favors.

“All I have to do is call up the head of every Wall Street firm, the head of every major company, the head of every major energy company. ‘Do me a favor, send $10 million for my campaign,’” Trump said, adding that he could not take the money because it would make him “totally compromised.”

“Because when they call me, you know, you’re a loyal person, and what happens is hey, you know, you’ll do things that are a lot more money,” he added, before going on to provide an example.

“So I call some guy, the head of Exxon. I call the head of Exxon, I don’t know, you know. I’ll use a company,” the president said. “‘Hi, how are you doing? How’s energy coming? when are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits, huh? Okay.’ But I call the head of Exxon, I say, ‘You know, I’d love you to send me $25 million dollars for the campaign.’ ‘Absolutely, sir, why didn’t you ask?’” 

Beyond making him “compromised,” the situation that the president described is also illegal. Under federal law, soliciting for donations in exchange for a favor or advantage — like a specific policy outcome or permits and licenses — is punishable by fines, removal from office, and up to 15 years in prison.

Response

Trump’s remarks quickly began trending on Twitter, with many users condemning him. Despite the fact that the example the president provided appeared to be entirely hypothetical, some people still found it alarming, especially because he did not outright acknowledge it was illegal.

Some noted that the scenario he described almost exactly the kind of quid pro quo that Trump was impeached for after he withheld aid from Ukraine in order to coerce the country’s president to dig up political dirt on Biden.

“It’s basically what he was impeached for: trading presidential act for political favor,” one user wrote. “Just substitute ‘Exxon’ for ‘Ukraine.’ ‘Exxon, I need you to do me a favor, though.’” 

Other users also pointed out that Trump repeatedly defended himself during the impeachment proceedings by claiming his actions did not constitute a quid pro quo. If he believed he did not commit any wrongdoing, they argued, it is possible that he would engage in this kind of behavior again.

“If he was willing to do this with Ukraine, I have no doubt he’s done it with US corporations,” one user wrote.

Some also cast doubt on the fact that it was a hypothetical at all.

“Trumps the kind of guy who jokes about doing something illegal but says ‘I’m just kidding’ but he’s actually done it,” one person tweeted. “He made the old Exxon CEO the Secretary of State. How much has Exxon given Trump & how has the Trump administration helped them w/ regulations.” 

It is true that the oil and gas industry has been a large contributor to Trump, who has spent his time in office denying scientific facts about climate change and rolling back decades of environmental regulations.

According to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics, Trump and outside groups associated with him have raised nearly $13 million from people at oil-and-gas companies in this election cycle.

Not only is that nearly 13 times the $976,000 the industry has donated to Biden, it is also more than people in the industry have given Republicans in all of the last three presidential races.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

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AOC Will Play “Among Us” With Pokimane and Others To “Get Out the Vote”

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  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked if anyone wanted to play “Among Us” with her on Twitch in an effort to encourage voting.
  • She’s already publicly agreed to play with Pokimane, Hasan Pike, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, but no other players have been confirmed yet.
  • Internet stars who showed interest included James Charles, Gus Johnson, Jacksepticeye, Dr Lupo, and several others.
  • The congresswoman has created a Twitch channel in preparation for the stream, which she said could happen Tuesday night.
  • AOC isn’t the only Democrat using video games to reach young voters. The Biden-Harris campaign has made headlines for releasing 2020 yard signs and creating its own headquarters in “Animal Crossing.”


AOC Issues a Call for “Among Us” Players

Internet stars are jumping at the chance to stream a game of “Among Us” with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Twitch this week.

“Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote?” the Democratic congresswoman from New York tweeted out Monday.

I’ve never played but it looks like a lot of fun,” she added before asking, “Who would you want to watch in a game together? ⬇️”

“Among Us” is a multiplayer murder mystery game that was released in 2018, but it recently became wildly popular thanks to various streamers and people trying to have fun with friends in this age of social distancing. 

While many streamers were quick to reply to AOC’s question, one of the biggest names catching attention was Pokimane, who has over 6 million Twitch followers.

“It’d be an honor,” she tweeted back.

“Let’s do it!” Ocasio-Cortez replied, saying she’ll set up her account and get equipment together.

Other Creators Show Interest

Aside from Pokimane, AOC also publicly agreed to play with streamer and political commentator Hasan Piker, as well as Rep. Ilhan Omar. 

It’s unclear how many people she’s looking to bring together, but a game of “Among Us” can have up to 10 players.

Other huge creators throwing their names into the hat include James Charles, Gus Johnson, Jacksepticeye, Lazarbeam, and Dr Lupo.

However, as of now, no other players have been publicly confirmed. AOC set up her Twitch channel last night, which already has nearly 200,000 followers.

She said she spent time setting up mods and doing run-throughs but plans to go live sometime Tuesday night.

Democrats Using Video Games To Reach Young Voters

It will be interesting to see who participates and what kind of viewership this event brings in. Many agree that the steam could prove to be a smart way to reach younger Americans before the election, a base AOC is especially good at communicating with.

Although she admittedly hasn’t played this particular game before, video games aren’t exactly outside her realm of interests. In fact, she previously opened up about loving to play “League of Legends.” 

Ocasio-Cortez is also far from the only Democrat-leaning into video games as a way to reach young voters. The Biden-Harris campaign has taken a similar approach with the “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”

Biden-Harris Yard Signs in “Animal Crossing”

Last month, they released official yard signs through the game, and just this month, the campaign launched Joe Biden’s virtual headquarters– an entire island where users could connect with his campaign, 

A field office in Biden’s HQ

According to Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden-Harris campaign: “The island includes plenty of ice cream, trains, aviators, chucks, swag, and more weaved throughout the entire island — but there are also features that encourage players to organize and mobilize.”

For example, it included ads for the DNC’s “I Will Vote” website as well as an election day checklist, among other features. Biden’s character even walks across the island so players can take virtual selfies with him.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (The Verge) (CNET)

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