Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie blasted Facebook’s (FB) continued influence after its widely publicized data scandal, amid a recent controversy over the site’s refusal to remove a Trump campaign ad that makes false assertions about Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden.
The advertisement claims the former vice president tried to pressure a Ukrainian prosecutor to drop a probe of his son, Hunter — an argument that’s been widely debunked. It forms the basis of a widening controversy that’s sparked an impeachment inquiry in Congress, and given Facebook’s critics new ammunition to blast the platform’s practices.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance, Wylie — who blew the lid on the data scandal that walloped Facebook last year — insisted that the site was “making a choice” to spread false information. He compared the company to a “stalker” on a date.
“So if one campaign is basing itself on a scaled spread of disinformation and fake news in its advertising campaign, and you say we're just not going to do anything about it, you are making a choice, whether you like it or not, to help one side,” Wylie said to Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM.
Like a bad blind date
Wylie just released a new book “Mindf*ck,” which reveals the inside story of “the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers.”
The Cambridge Analytica scandal led to 87 million Facebook users’ data being sold and used for voter targeting campaigns for Brexit and Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.
The scandal resulted in Facebook having to fork over a record $5 billion in fines, and forced the social media giant to rethink key aspects of its data management — even as it continues its march into other business lines.
“This is a company that is everything from your photo album, to a communications network, to where we now have our public discourse and host elections… and at the same time wants to become a financial system,” Wylie said — referencing the company’s embattled cryptocurrency project, Libra.
“I question the wisdom of allowing a company to concentrate so many aspects of our society into one product,” he added.
Facebook is a publicly traded company, which Wylie points out is only accountable to their shareholders and CEO/founder Mark Zuckerberg. He called for independent regulators who will speak for its users — something several politicians have called for in the wake of the Cambridge scandal.
He believes the Internet “is part and parcel of democracy now” — which begs the question of whether the rules need updating.
Wylie used an analogy of Facebook as a perfect blind date — only to find out that person has spent two years stalking the person they’re courting.
“You are more vulnerable, because there's an imbalance in power, because one entity, or one person, knows a lot more about you than vice versa,” he explained.
“Facebook is like that stalker - and that's powerful... people will pay money to access the knowledge of that stalker,” he added.
Grete Suarez is producer at Yahoo Finance for YFi PM and The Ticker. Follow her on Twitter: @GreteSuarez