Robert Mercer, who bankrolled Donald Trump, played key role with sinister advice on using Facebook data
The US billionaire who helped bankroll Donald Trumps campaign for the presidency played a key role in the campaign for Britain to leave the EU, the Observer has learned.
It has emerged that Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund billionaire, who helped to finance the Trump campaign and who was exposed this weekend as one of the owners of the rightwing Breitbart News Network, is a long-time friend of Nigel Farage. He directed his data analytics firm to provide expert advice to the Leave campaign on how to target sway voters via Facebook a donation of services that was not declared to the electoral commission.
Cambridge Analytica, an outgrowth of a British company, SCL Group, which has 25 years experience in military disinformation campaigns and election management, claims to use cutting-edge technology to build intimate psychometric profiles of voters to find and target their emotional triggers. Trumps team paid the firm more than$ 6m( 4.8 m) to target swing voters, and it has now emerged that Mercer also introduced the firm in which he has a major stake to Farage.
The communications director of Leave.eu, Andy Wigmore, told the Observer that the longstanding friendship between Nigel Farage and the Mercer family resulted Mercer to offer his help free to the Brexit campaign because of their shared goals. Wigmore said that he introduced Farage and Leave.eu to Cambridge Analytica: They were happy to help. Because Nigel is a good friend of the Mercers. And Mercer introduced them to us. He said, Heres this company we guess may be useful to you. What they were trying to do in the US and what we were trying to do had massive parallels. We shared a lot of information.
The strategy involved harvesting data from people Facebook and other social media profiles and then using machine learning to spread through their networks. Wigmore admitted the technology and the level of information it gathered from people was creepy. He said the campaign used this information, combined with artificial intelligence, to determine who to target with highly individualised ads and had built a database of more than a million people, based on advice Cambridge Analytica supplied. Two weeks ago Arron Banks, Leave.eus founder, stated in a series of tweets that Gerry Gunster( Leave.eus pollster) and Cambridge Analytica with world class AI had helped them gain unprecedented levels of participation. AI won it for Leave, he said.
By law, all donations of services-in-kind worth more than 7,500 must be reported to the electoral commission. A spokesman said that no gift from the company or Mercer to Leave.eu had been filed.
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