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#25Political Interference

Facebook played a determining role in political interference during the 2016 American elections through the Russian interference and the Cambridge Analytica data breach.

The Russian interference

Russian organizations used the social network as a means of political interference. Full-time employees had the task of generating content in favour of Donald Trump—including fake news—and to spill defamatory speech on Hillary Clinton, while acting under the appearance of American citizens.

According to Facebook, at least 126 million Americans have been exposed to such advertisements.

The Cambridge Analytica data breach

The firm Cambridge Analytica had deep access to the data of 50 million 87 million Facebook users. This massive access allowed the company to create extremely detailed psychological profiles on potential voters in order to present them with targeted messages depending on their respective allegiance (and many other factors).

Several politicians, such as Ted Cruz and John Bolton, have used Cambridge Analytica’s microtargeting services. The company was led at the time by Donald Trump’s key advisor, Stephen K. Bannon.

The whistleblower Christopher Wylie (who worked on the system at Cambridge Analytica) called it “information warfare” against the United States, in part because of the political manipulation through personal targeting and the use of false information.