Cambridge Analytica, the Trump-aligned data firm which was found to have improperly harvested personal data from 87 million Facebook users, and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon worked to suppress the black vote in the 2016 election, a former employee told Congress on Wednesday.
Christopher Wylie, an ex-employee of Cambridge Analytica who blew the whistle on the company’s misuse of Facebook, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the company offered strategies to discourage certain segments of the population from voting. He said that Bannon, who was CEO of the firm at the time, directed those efforts.
“Mr. Bannon sees cultural warfare as the means to create enduring change in American politics. It was for this reason Mr. Bannon engaged SCL (Cambridge Analytica’s parent company), a foreign military contractor, to build an arsenal of informational weapons he could deploy on the American population,” said Wylie.
Asked by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) if one of Bannon’s “goals was to suppress voting or discourage certain individuals in the US from voting,” Wylie replied, “That was my understanding, yes.”
In an interview with CNN Wednesday night, Wylie said that Cambridge Analytica offered services to “discourage or demobilize certain types of people from voting” and that African-Americans were targets of those “voter disengagement strategies.”
Wylie added that campaigns and political action committees had requested voter-suppression services from the firm, although he didn’t say which ones. He said he did not personally work on voter disengagement.
Earlier this month, Cambridge Analytica announced it was shutting down in the US and UK. The company was primarily funded by Republican megadonor Steve Bannon and his daughter Rebekah, who sat on the company’s board. Earlier this year, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix was caught on hidden camera by the UK’s Channel 4 boasting of using entrapment and extortion to compromise political candidates.
In March, a new company called Emerdata was registered with the UK’s Companies House. Several Cambridge Analytica backers and executives were listed as officers of the company, including Nix and Rebekah Mercer.