By Theodore Mattheiss
Elm Staff Writer
By now you’ve probably heard of the recent scandal that is consuming Facebook related to a data mining and political strategy firm called Cambridge Analytica. The story is dominating the news cycle, and with good reason: Facebook sold out the American public.
Cambridge Analytica, which has ties to President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, improperly obtained the data of more than 50 million Facebook users through apps on Facebook that, when a user granted access to their personal information, would then delve into that user’s friend list and mine all of their data as well.
This information comes from a whistleblower named Christopher Wylie, who used to work for Cambridge Analytica alongside CEO Alexander Nix. Status updates, likes, follows, and even private messages were all examined by the apps, and data was pulled from these interactions within the social network to create targeted political advertising on Facebook and influence public opinion.
“We would know what kinds of messaging you would be susceptible to and where you’re going to consume that,” Wylie said, “and then how many times do we need to touch you with that in order to change how you think about something?”
He said in his interview with The Guardian that “the company itself was founded on using Facebook data,” and “it is a full-service propaganda machine.” He also admits that this propaganda machine was primarily aimed at moderate voters who were already leaning Republican.
Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, made tons of money from selling Facebook users’ personal data to Cambridge Analytica in this way. It’s interesting that Facebook played such a role in the election of our president, because Zuckerberg’s business practices are remarkably similar to Trump’s. Both relentlessly scam, sell out, and screw over anybody who decides to trust them.
Since the origins of Facebook, Zuckerberg has always put himself over others. He started Facebook by stealing the concept of a social network from the Winklevoss twins, two Harvard students who approached Zuckerberg asking him to put his programming skills to work on a project they were calling ConnectU.
Later, Zuckerberg cut his friend Eduardo Saverin, co-founder and CFO of Facebook, out of the company. In an email to his lawyer at the time, shared with Business Insider, he asked, “Is there a way to do this without making it painfully apparent to him that he’s being diluted to 10 percent?”
Now we have the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Zuckerberg will do whatever it takes to earn more money and power for himself, and he doesn’t care about how it affects other people.
Trump, in comparison, has a long list of lawsuits against him stemming from scams and illegal business practices. Perhaps one of the most noteworthy is Trump University, an online project that enticed its “students” to pay up to $35,000 to unlock Trump’s business strategies and secrets for their own personal gain.
In reality, Trump had little to do with the courses or any of the instructors, and the university failed to deliver on expectations in any way. Trump “University” also operated without an educational license from the state of New York, which later resulted in it being shut down, and at no point did it grant students any official degree or certification.
He’s also committed antitrust violations in his attempts to launch hostile takeovers on rival casino businesses in the past. The law states that if one buys a certain percentage of stock in a company, they must publicly reveal that they’ve done this so that the company has a chance to respond accordingly. Trump failed to disclose this information.
He has stiffed workers and contractors, sometimes outright refusing to pay bills for hundreds of thousands of dollars on projects that he was contractually required to compensate. His dishonesty and breach of contract would make it quite difficult for those companies—which made the mistake of trusting him to honor a deal—to continue operating normally.
Trump is cheap and slimy in his business practices, just like Zuckerberg, so it only makes sense that they would wind up as two key people of interest in the same scandal. They’re two corrupt peas in a pod, and it’s time for them both to be held accountable for their actions.