This story from Reuters announcing “Facebook parent Meta to settle Cambridge Analytica scandal case for $725” million has me wondering. Can Facebook be sued for their part in securing a leave win in the Brexit referendum?
It is my understanding that Dominic Cummings and Vote Leave took the information Cambridge Analytica scraped from Facebook, built detailed profiles of users, then targeted them with advertising designed to nudge voters in the 2016 referendum.
For those who think Facebook’s reach and impact is negligible, just another silly social media platform, consider this. 17,410,742 people voted to leave the European Union, compared to the 16,141,241 who voted to remain. That’s a difference of 1,269,501 people. Vote Leave won by nudging the attitudes and opinions of at least, but probably more than, 1.25 million people. The thing is, that’s only 2.82% of the 45 million people it’s estimated use Facebook in the United Kingdom. I also think it significant that the total electorate, those who voted in the referendum, was only 1,501,241 more than the total number of UK Facebook users.
Personally, I think the platform allowed itself to be used by Cummings and Vote Leave to reach and influence enough of the electorate, personally and specifically, to swing the vote their way. Facebook certainly took the money and ran the adverts without worrying about intention or means. I also think the picture is more complicated than simply targeting Facebook users with adverts that confirm an individual’s prejudices and trigger their fears. They also used targeted advertising to convince the apathetic or complacent, that leave could never win, nothing ever changes, so why bother voting at all. Turnout for the referendum was 72.2%, comparatively high when seen against the 2019 General Election at 67.3%. That’s a difference of 4.9%. Significant, in a conspiratorial kind of way, when you realise Vote Leave only won with a majority of 4%.
If you don’t believe me, and why would you, could you, should you, watch Dominic Cummings explain in his own words, “Why Leave Won the Referendum”. He gave this talk at the Ogilvy Nudgestock event in 2017. Nudgestock calls itself a festival of “behavioural science and creativity” that provides “science-led evaluation and optimization of nudge strategies, ideas and campaigns designed to change perception and behaviour”.
All of this sounds to me like psychological warfare, employed against the population of the United Kingdom, for political and economic gain.