Who’s Backing Who: Minimal Progress

Guido’s list is holding steady this morning with just one new high profile backer has announced this morning, DCMS Committee Chair Damian Collins has declared for Boris, becoming the second Select Committee chair to join his column in two days, having yesterday secured the backing of Defence Committee Chair Julian Lewis. 55% of the Parliamentary Party has now declared. Guido hears there are unlikely to be many more announcements until the Prime Minister formally steps down as Party Leader tomorrow. Some are holding back out of respect…

View the full list here: order-order.com/backers

Get in touch with any updates…

Hardline Remainers Come Out Against May’s New Deal

While Brexiteers are keeping their own counsel until the Attorney General and the Star Council of Brexit lawyers come back with their formal legal opinions on May’s latest offering, Remainers have wasted no time in coming out to batter her new deal. Despite Brexiteers being the ones always branded headbangers, as usual it’s the Remainers who kicking up a fuss while Brexiteers are open to compromise…

Dominic Grieve has said this morning that it “doesn’t make any significant difference”, digging in on his fundamental position that he won’t back any deal unless May commits to holding a second referendum on it. Sam Gyimah dismissively says “We’re being played!” while comparing Brexit to Iraq. The mercurial Damian Collins also declared that he wouldn’t be budging last night…

There are still niggling concerns over what May has secured. Most pro-Brexit lawyers Guido has spoken to so far believe that the UK’s unilateral declaration will carry weight in future legal disputes if the EU does not raise any formal objections to its inclusion alongside the rest of the Treaty, there are still doubts about what position it leaves the UK in overall. Varadkar once again displayed his ham-fisted lack of political judgement with a bullish tone at his press conference this morning…

May said last night that the changes guaranteed that the backstop would not become the “template” for the future relationship, as EU negotiators boasted after the deal was first agreed. Ultimately MPs will be making a political judgement as much as anything today. May’s changes are legally binding, but are they enough? Does the risk of an even softer Brexit or no Brexit at all justify voting for the deal as the least worst option still available? Nick Boles’ ego is now so large that he is already threatening Brexiteers to “take the win” or else “we will do whatever it takes to frustrate you.” Brexiteers are still reserving their judgement, Remainers have showed their cards and made clear their only interest now is sabotaging Brexit…

Damian Collins Used Remain Campaigners to ‘Analyse’ Pro-Brexit Outlets

The DCMS Select Committee used pro-Remain campaign agency to ‘analyse’ activities of pro-Brexit media outlets under the pretence of uncovering the spread of disinformation online. The notoriously Remain-heavy committee employed the services of ’89up’ to carry out analysis of Facebook data in its new report. The Committee claims 89up is a consultancy firm, but it is really a campaigning and communications company with close links to the Remain camp…

89up was the sole communications agency for pro-Remain campaign group Best for Britain. They have also received considerable sponsorship from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, which has made multiple political donations to secure a second referendum. Is it any wonder then that all pro-Brexit Facebook pages and companies examined by 89up are described as ‘populist’, ‘right-wing’, ‘conspirational’ and ‘anti-establishment’..?

Damian Collins’ committee appointed former Labour Councillor and 89up CEO Mike Harris to carry out the analysis. Harris has previously called the backer of Best for Britain, George Soros “the largest single donor in human history for the defence and strengthening of democracy.” Soros also funds the campaign to overturn the biggest vote in UK history, and Best for Britain has itself received multiple fines from the Electoral Commission.

Relying so heavily on such a clearly conflicted firm to push disastrous reforms for tech freedom undermines the entire legitimacy of Collins’ narcissistic ‘Fake News’ enquiry.

Damian Collins Calls For End to Internet Freedom

Damian Collins’ committee has this morning published its report into “Disinformation and ‘fake news’” and off the bat it is a full-on onslaught of new heavy-handed regulations that could herald the end of a free and open internet.

The report recommends that tech companies cease to be seen as platforms, and shift to being seen much more as publishers, establishing a new Government written “Code of Ethics” overseen by yet another new quango given “statutory powers to monitor relevant tech companies”:

“tech companies assume legal liability for content identified as harmful after it has been posted by users”

Calling to end platform neutral status for internet companies would end social media as we know it. If Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or any other user-centred host of content became classified as publishers, why would any company allow anything to be posted without central approval first? Doing anything else would leave that company legally liable for whatever its users posted on the site…

Publisher status would necessitate pre-approval by legal teams for everything that was posted, so that companies would avoid getting sued. A precautionary principle would have to be adopted – we would end up with a small group of out-of-touch politicians and technocrats deciding what is acceptable to say on the internet. In reality this would lead to a mass exodus of global companies from the UK…

The UK is home to more tech companies than anywhere else in Europe. There is a tech boom of new startups and more ‘tech unicorn’ billion dollar valued companies than anywhere else in Europe. Collins’ hugely misguided plans would destroy all of that if they were ever implemented…

Cambridge Analytica ‘Whistleblower’ Wylie Gets ‘Ethical’ New Data-Targeting Job

There was some surprising news from the world of fashion last week, with H&M announcing that they would be hiring Cambridge Analytica ‘whistleblower’ Chris Wylie to use data analytics and “sustainable and ethical” artificial intelligence to help them target potential customers. Guido thought he would do H&M the favour of reminding them about some of Wylie’s previous corporate engagements, to let them decide for themselves just how “ethical” they were…

Guido readers will be remember how Chris Wylie founded his own Cambridge Analytica spin-off, Eunoia Technologies, after acrimoniously parting ways with them. Eunoia then made failed pitches offering the same sort of illicit data targeting, to everyone from Britain Stronger in Europe to Donald Trump, until he finally found a client in Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in Canada, trousering a handsome C$100,000. Despite telling Damian Collins he had no clients…

The gaping hole in the narrative of Wylie’s Damascene conversion from “evil” data genius to righteous moral hero is the four-year gap between Wylie leaving Cambridge Analytica and finally deciding to blow the whistle on them, in which time he was happily carrying on with the same activities himself. Surely it had nothing to do with saving his own skin with a highly aggressive journalist hunting him down?

Even Damian Collins found enough time between grandstanding and amplifying Carole’s columns to put Wylie on the spot over this when he questioned him last year. If Wylie felt so strongly about the wrongdoing, why did he wait so long to expose it?

Wylie’s answers to Collins were a veritable cocktail of lies and misinformation:

  • Wylie told Collins that he hadn’t blown the whistle sooner because he “didn’t appreciate the future impact” of his work at the time as well as claiming that he did “not think military-style information operations is conducive for any democratic process”.
  • This is a bare-faced lie: in 2013 Wylie explicitly said his goal was to create the “NSA’s wet dream” and openly admitted he wanted to profit out of using the data for “evil” as “evil pays more”:

Our goal is first to make it an extremely profitable company. Then we will cleanse our souls with other projects, like using the data for good rather than evil. But evil pays more.”

  • Wylie even told Collins that Donald Trump’s election had made it “click in [his] head” about the wider impact of what he was doing. Another shameless lie given his own company’s attempts to sell voter-targeting services to Trump’s campaign…

Wylie also tried to use the excuse that Cambridge Analytica had come after him with a “very aggressive team of lawyers” and forced him to sign an undertaking of confidentiality. This is a highly distorted account of what actually happened:

  • According to the independent report into Cambridge Analytica by Julian Malins QC, CA’s lawyers did write to Wylie and his company, Eunoia, “regarding suspected breaches of covenants on intellectual property, client solicitation, staff solicitation and non-competition”.
  • CA found out after one of their existing US political clients tipped them off that they had received a proposal from Eunoia “which purported to deliver exactly the same services as SCL [CA’s parent company]”.

So CA did come after Wylie with lawyers after he left – not to try to hush him up but because he had started his own company in direct competition with them. And was attempting to poach their existing clients using their own intellectual property…

  • Wylie was forced to settle the prospective action in 2015 “by providing very wide ranging written undertakings to SCL… that, in summary, he would not use SCL’s intellectual property and other commercial or confidential material (obtained whilst working with SCL) in the course of his own business enterprise.”
  • As the Malins Report notes, his own business flopped after this: “Wylie was not then and has not been subsequently successful in forming and running a business competing with SCL/CA. Eunoia fell dormant and was subsequently struck off the company register.” Good of H&M to give him another go…

Wylie’s story suddenly starts to look less like a tale of redemption and more like a story of revenge. Carole’s appearance gave him the perfect opportunity to stick the knife into his former employers who had forced him out of business. While simultaneously covering up his own fundamental role in the scandal:

  • Right at the outset, Wylie introduced Cambridge Analytica to Dr Aleksandr Kogan, the academic who developed the original Facebook data-harvesting app.
  • He then worked directly with Kogan to turn it into the app at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
  • Wylie left Cambridge Analytica, took the illegally-obtained data with him, and launched his own company trying to steal their clients.
  • He unsuccessfully tried to pitch the same illicit voter-targeting services to a range of clients including Trump, Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe.
  • His company flopped after Cambridge Analytica forced him to stop using the intellectual property he stole from them.
  • Years later he finally turned whistleblower after being relentlessly pursued by Carole Cadwalladr for months.
  • Now he goes round the world doing media interviews and giving speeches about how he exposed the wrongdoing – which would probably never have happened in the first place without his involvement – while getting the chance to wipe his slate clean with a plushy job in industry.

And he’s meant to be the good guy in all of this?

Whistleblower Wylie Pocketed $100,000 From Trudeau Despite Telling Collins He Had No Clients

Fans of political dramas will be thrilled by the news that they will also have a Ron Howard-produced biopic of Chris Wylie – “the young gay visionary who created Cambridge Analytica” – to look forward to following Channel 4’s Brexit drama next month. Ron’s blurb says he’s setting out to tell the “true story of Chris Wylie”, Guido thought he would give Ron a little help with piecing some more of the facts together:

As Guido detailed last month, far from turning his back on illicit data activities after leaving Cambridge Analytica, Chris Wylie was busy attempting to flog the “psychographic microtargeting” services of his own company Eunoia Technologies to all and sundry, with little success. Wylie’s snake oil had already been turned down by Donald Trump and the Remain campaign before his pitch to Dominic Cummings flopped too…

Given this litany of failed attempts to monetise his dubious data practices, Damian Collins won’t have been too surprised when Wylie told him at the DCMS Committee on 27th March this year that he hadn’t “been able to benefit” himself from using the data on other projects outside Cambridge Analytica. Not for want of trying…

“I didn’t do any contracts or any, you know, work with that data… I haven’t worked with any clients that data was used for… that data got deleted, I believe, in 2015 on my end.”

Yet Wylie was still trying to peddle his voter-targeting techniques to Cummings in January 2016, and Facebook said that Wylie didn’t certify to them that he had deleted the data until August 2016. The 2015 date is almost certainly wrong…

And just one week before his appearance at the DCMS Committee, a major story broke in Wylie’s native Canada that in 2016 Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party had awarded a C$100,000 (£58,000) contract – to Chris Wylie and Eunoia TechnologiesSomehow Carole Cadwalladr’s prize-winning investigative skills entirely missed that one…

After media pressure in Canada, Trudeau’s Liberal Party was forced to release a statement confirming that Wylie’s firm had received C$100,000 of Canadian taxpayers’ money to conduct a “pilot project” for the party’s research bureau, including “setting up social media monitoring tools” and to “design and organize several national samples of Canadians to explore responses to Government policy priorities and other issues of national importance”. Which sounds remarkably similar to the psychological voter profiling and micro-targeting techniques Wylie was trying to tout elsewhere…

  • Was Wylie being straight with Collins when he told him he hadn’t “worked with any clients” or done “any contracts” with the data?
  • Was Wylie being straight with the Canadian Parliament when he told them his work hadn’t involved any targeting of voters, despite Liberal Party insiders saying that he had been trying to push micro-targeting techniques to the party for almost a decade?
  • Was Carole completely unaware of any of this as she was busy lionising him in the British press?

In fact, in his failed pitch to Vote Leave, Wylie told Cummings: “some of us will be in Ottowa this month working on a similar project for a major Canadian political party”. Wylie’s proposal to Cummings detailed a number of a data crimes he planned to commit including for his company to retain psychographic algorithms based on Vote Leave’s data “for future commercial applications”. Did Wylie’s work for Trudeau’s party involve “similar” breaches of data protection laws?

These are serious questions for Damian Collins, the ICO and the British media to ask. By his own admission, if Wylie did any work for clients using models built using the Facebook data, even if it wasn’t directly using the data itself, he is guilty of openly misleading Parliament. At least he didn’t walk away entirely empty-handed after all his hard work obtaining the illicit data in the first place…

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Collins Invites Censoring Singaporean MP To Sit on His Committee

Damian Collins’ 24 strong international committee skewering Facebook today includes a Singaporean MP by the name of Edwin Tong. Tong sits on a Singaporean select committee that recommended giving the Singaporean government yet more powers to crack down on ‘fake news’. The Singaporean government ranks 151 on world press freedom index…

Facebook VP to DCMS Committee: This Doesn’t Look Great

Former Lib Dem MP for Sheffield Hallam and serving Peer Richard Allan has said that Mark Zuckerberg not appearing before the DCMS Committee today is “not great.”

Despite serious questions beign raised over the ethical behaviour of how the Committee went about obtaining documents from a US software developer, the Committee has brought together legislators from nine countries to form what they modestly call the ‘International Grand Committee on Disinformation and Fake News.’

Never knowingly understated Committee Chairman Damian Collins must be loving this…

Damian’s Dodgy Data Discovery

Carole Cadwalladr has exclusively revealed that self-promoting DCMS Committee Chairman Damian Collins made the extraordinary move to seize documents from the founder of a small US software company called ‘Six4Three’ over the weekend – in time for Carole’s deadline. The founder Ted Kramer, who is currently suing Facebook in a messy lawsuit in California, just happened to be in the UK on a ‘business trip’. The DCMS Committee apparently magically knew about this brief trip, the hotel the founder was staying at, and that he had the documents with him. This remarkably detailed information led to Collins initiating a parliamentary procedure to seize the documents, complete with the theatrical sending of a serjeant at arms to the founder’s hotel with a “final warning” and an escort to parliament. It all seems a little choreographed…

It appears to Guido that this entire theatrical codswallop story is a stitch up. The ‘Six4Three’ founder seems to have flown to the UK specifically to have the documents seized – which Facebook wants to keep confidential. NBC’s tech investigations editor Olivia Solon has suggested that if that weren’t the case you would “be seeing statements from his lawyers decrying jurisdictional overreach / worrying misuse of power.” Why did ‘Six4Three’ founder have the documents with him, under seal, on his trip to the UK?

If Guido was the sort of journalist who made unsubstantiated speculative allegations that later had to be corrected he’d wonder, without any firm evidential basis, if Damian is part of a charade to get these documents out in the open and Carole Cadwalldr knows this because she has been in touch with Ted Kramer, the owner of Six4Three. He is suing Facebook, claiming that “Facebook itself is the biggest violator of data misuse in the history of the software industry”. On this point he is probably correct.

Should Damian be co-operating with an attempt to subvert United States due legal process? Isn’t Collins’ committee’s whole shtick meant to be sticking up for due process and the rule of law?

Damian Collins Calls For Election or Second Referendum if Deal Voted Down

“If we couldn’t get an agreement and we were basically stuck in a situation where it was a deal we don’t want or the cliff edge, I think if we reach that point I don’t think as Parliament we could just stand back and watch the country fall off the edge of a cliff without asking the people whether that was a step they wanted to take… some mechanism of consulting the people – be it a general election or a second referendum.”

Number 10 might see this as a somewhat useful intervention from uber-Remainer Collins, scaring eurosceptics into backing May’s deal as the only way to avoid a mechanism to stop Brexit. On the other hand this is yet another big voice against the draft withdrawal agreement. Does anyone outside of Government at all support it..?

The Other Cambridge Analytica: Whistleblower Wylie’s Own Dodgy Data Dealings

While the ICO’s report into data use in the referendum principally served to blow apart Carole Cadwalladr’s main Brexit conspiracy, one aspect of the report that has largely been overlooked is the role of data-hustler-turned-whistleblower Chris Wylie. The one who made an international media and public speaking career out of setting up Cambridge Analytica and then dobbing them in…

A notable feature of the ICO report is how few people are explicitly named in it – not even Arron Banks is. The few that are include Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Dr Aleksandr Kogan, the academic whose company harvested the data behind the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a couple of other individuals related to Cambridge Analytica, and Chris Wylie. Not exactly the good guys in this whole saga…

Wylie’s inclusion in the report is not in the context of his role as whistleblower, it is as a key part of how Cambridge Analytica came to acquire the Facebook data at the heart of the scandal in the first place:

“In May 2014, Dr Aleksandr Kogan… offered to undertake the work himself as he had developed his own app called the ‘CPW Lab App’… We have seen evidence that CA staff, including whistleblower Chris Wylie, were involved in setting up these contacts through their networks of friends and colleagues; many of whom had been involved in earlier campaigns in North America…

“Once the company was set up and a contract signed with CA, Dr Kogan, with some help from Chris Wylie, overhauled the ‘CPW Lab App’ changing the name, terms and conditions of the app into the ‘GSR App’ which ultimately became thisisyourdigitallife (the app).”

Wylie himself has never denied his role in creating Cambridge Analytica, telling Damian Collins’ DCMS Select Committee in March: “To be clear, Cambridge Analytica was set up in large part because of the research I was doing at SCL Group [Cambridge Analytica’s parent company].”

However, Cambridge Analytica was not the only company which received the illicit Facebook data set that resulted from Wylie’s work with Dr Kogan. As has been reported in North American press (and confirmed by Mark Zuckerberg to the US Congress) but largely ignored in the UK, the harvested data was also acquired by one other company, Eunoia Technologies. Eunoia Technologies Inc. was a separate company registered in the US on 12th June 2014… by Chris Wylie.

Wylie’s background is in centre-left politics, he worked for many years with Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in Canada and also worked with the Liberal Democrats in the UK. Since becoming a whistleblower, he has described social data harvesting as “grossly unethical”…

However, that didn’t stop Eunoia unsuccessfully trying to flog its services to Donald Trump’s campaign director in early 2015, before Eunoia again attempted to sell their services to the Remain campaign in November 2015, as Private Eye reported in April this year. Finally, he had yet another pitch rebuffed in January 2016, this time with Vote Leave’s Dominic Cummings dismissing his offer of “psychographic microtargeting”. Evidently Cummings was not the only one who concluded they were “charlatans”…

Zuckerberg told the US Congress that Wylie had certified to Facebook that Eunoia deleted its data in August 2016, but added that Facebook had “no way to confirm” activities that had “taken place off Facebook and its systems”. Eunoia’s UK branch didn’t wind up as a company until 24 October 2017.

The ICO’s report itself is inconclusive about the fate of the Facebook data, confirming that their own investigations into it are still ongoing:

“Our concerns also extend to who else may have received the harvested data and what they then did with it; our enquiries are active and continuing in that regard…”

“We will be making sure any organisations, which may still have copies of the Facebook data and its derivatives demonstrate its deletion.”

Given his intimate involvement in the genesis of the scandal, it would be remarkable if Wylie and Eunoia were not key lines of inquiry for the ICO in this regard. Only two companies are known to have received the illicit data – Cambridge Analytica and Eunoia. The ICO obtained a search warrant and raided the offices of one. What has it done about the other?

Police Rubbish Remoaner Conspiracy

Remoaners have been working themselves up into a tizzy over the last few weeks over an Open Democracy report which claimed that the police weren’t investigating the Leave campaigns due to “political sensitivities”. Carole was all over it, David Lammy had a Twitter tantrum while 74 MPs, Peers and MEPs including Vince Cable, Chuka Umunna and Lammy signed Ben Bradshaw and Molly Scott Cato’s cranky letter to the Police. Damian Collins even had a stern-looking Observer photoshoot

The Met Police’s response has left the conspiracy brigade looking incredibly silly. Far from “stalling” the investigation, the police revealed that they had only received over 2,000 documents relating to the case from the Electoral Commission last month and were therefore still assessing the documents. No conspiracy, just another Electoral Commission cock-up…

They also issued a stern rebuke to Bradshaw and Scott Cato’s suggestion that they had “been approached by government representatives to suggest that you soft-pedal this investigation due to political sensitivities”, revealing that the only people who had been putting them under political pressure were them and their fellow Remoaners:

“The operational independence of the police is central to our policing system. There has been no contact from any government representative making enquiries into the status of the MPS enquiries. The only approach from any elected politician, political party, official or representative has been your correspondence, or similar correspondence from other seeking the MPS undertakes a wide ranging investigation into the EU referendum.”

The only ones trying to externally influence the police are the ones shouting loudest about “police independence”…

Collins’ Cyber-Crusade Stumbles

Poor old Damian Collins’ attempts to become the British Julian Assange have hit another stumbling block as the Government accepted just 3 out of his committee’s 42 recommendations on how to deal with the “democratic crisis” of “disinformation and ‘fake news'” on social media.[…] Read the rest

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Damian Collins Spoke at Extremist Linked Event

Tory MP and DCMS Committee Chair Damian Collins was photographed over the weekend speaking in front of a banner for the Islamist sympathising group CAGE at a left wing festival.

Other banners appearing on stage at the festival included those for MEND, an organisation that MPs such as Anna Soubry have publicly distanced themselves from over claims that it engages in “dismissing terrorism” and promoting hostility towards Jews.[…] Read the rest

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BBC and DCMS Committee Push Fake News About Vote Leave Facebook Adverts

Whoever wrote this news article for the BBC website about Vote Leave’s Facebook adverts is going to have some explaining to do to their editor. The article talks about how Vote Leave and BeLeave “micro-targeted” adverts during the referendum, “with 252 of them seen fewer than 1,000 times”.[…] Read the rest

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Cadwalladr and Collins to Share Platform at Byline Festival

Brexit probe grandstander Damian Collins appears to have gone off the deep end. The DCMS select committee chair is due to appear alongside Carole Cadwalladr next month at the crackers Byline festival in Sussex. The panel is entitled ‘Is Silicon Valley a Danger to Democracy?’.[…] Read the rest

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Now Incompetent Collins Committee Publishes Banks’ Passport Number… And Leaves Unredacted PDF Online

Another great success for Damian Collins: his DCMS committee has published Arron Banks’ passport number and ID details in breach of data protection legislation. The personal information was released in a volume of evidence uploaded to parliament’s website, for all to see. […] Read the rest

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Collins Humiliated as Banks Walks Out For Lunch

After running rings around Damian Collins and his dire DCMS committee all morning, Arron Banks then left them completely humiliated by standing up, telling them he had a lunch to go to and walking out. Nothing the impotent Collins could do.[…] Read the rest

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Banks Running Rings Round Collins’ DCMS Committee

Arron Banks is enjoying himself a lot more than the MPs on the DCMS committee this morning. At one point he asked them: “Are you all Remainers? Yep? Hands up?”. And then he burned Paul Farrelly:

“What is this? Are you the MP who got drunk in the House of Commons and harassed a woman at a karaoke evening?”

Those watching are not impressed with the performance of the committee:

[…] Read the rest

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