Appearing before the Senate Judiciary committee today as part of the ongoing investigation of Cambridge Analytica and various forms of meddling in the 2016 elections, former employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie used to say the company and its then-VP Steve Bannon were seeking voter suppression tactics aimed at black Americans.
Although Wylie insisted that he himself did not take part in these programs, he testified to their existence.
” One of the things that elicited me to leave was debates about’ voter disengagement’ and the idea of targeting African Americans ,” he said.” I didn’t participate on any voter suppression programs, so I can’t comment on the specifics of those programs .”
” I can comment on their existence, and I can comment more generally on my understanding of what they were doing ,” he explained under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris( D-CA ).
” If it suited the client’s objective, the firm[ SCL, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company] was eager to capitalize on discontent and to stoke ethnic tensions ,” read Wylie’s written testimony.
” Steve Bannon believes that politics is downstream from culture. They were seeking out companies to build an arsenal of weapons to opposed a culture war ,” he explained at another point in the session. He indicated questions on the nature of those weapons, and the particularities of any possible race-based voter suppression tactics, to be directed to Bannon.
That such a system might work, however, he did address.
” How specifically, then, did they target African American voters ,” Sen. Harris had asked,” appreciation as you do that the African American population is not a monolith? How did they then decipher and ascertain who was African American so they would target them in their intent to suppress the vote ?”
” Racial characteristics can be modeled and I’m not sure about the studies that my colleague here was referencing but we were able to get an AUC score, which is a way of measuring accuracy for race that was. 89 I believe ,” Wylie answered.
AUC, he then explained, stands for” Area under the receive operations characteristic. It’s a style of measuring precision, which[ the. 89 figure] entails it’s very high .”
In other terms, black voters could be identified on the basis of their social media presence and other factors, despite the fact that the black community is, patently, far away from homogeneous.
It’s not especially surprising that Bannon, who has aligned himself repeatedly with alt-right and white nationalist figures and motions, would be contemplating ways to decrease the number of people of color voting. But it is new that it was being pursued relatively openly for the purposes of the Cambridge Analytica banner.
Sen. Harris and others requested any” evidence of the conduct you’ve described” Wylie may have.
Wylie also testified that Facebook, when it asked Cambridge Analytica to certify that it had deleted the data it was using in violation of the company’s rules,” did not require a notary or any kind of legal procedure. So I signed the certification and sent it back and they accepted it .”