By Kayle Van’t Klooster, May 14 2018 —
Recent actions by the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica should worry Canadians. The company was founded in 2013 by Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon. The pair has proven to be an effective political operative and they’re partially responsible for the recent surge of far-right politics across the world. Bannon also founded Breitbart, a controversial far-right publication which rose to prominence after the election of United States President Donald Trump when Bannon was named White House chief strategist. While Mercer’s career has been less public than Bannon’s, his work to promote far-right policies around the world has been very effective. The pair have supported far-right movements in the Netherlands, France, Germany and many other countries.
The activities of Cambridge Analytica became well-known recently after an explosive, investigative piece by the British broadcaster Channel 4. This was the result of a concerted effort by the firm to remain as secretive as possible, achieved by operating through dummy-corporations, auto-deleting communications like emails and failing to report their electoral contributions to appropriate authorities. All this secrecy makes it difficult to decipher how serious of a threat these operatives are to democracy and complicates the process of distinguishing facts from conspiracy theories. The public has only gotten bits and pieces of the story behind Cambridge Analytica’s activities.
With provincial and federal elections scheduled for 2019, Canadians have a right to know whether similar tactics are being employed to influence the outcomes of Canadian elections. After successes in the Trump and Brexit campaigns, Cambridge Analytica, as well as any other emerging firms with similar goals, have incentives to attempt to influence elections north of the border. Canadian politics are already heavily influenced by events in the U.S. and it would not take much to retune the instruments of disinformation that wreaked havoc on the American elections to take place in Canada. Rebel Media, a Canadian online publication similar in content to Breitbart, has already been alleged to have connections to the online effort to influence the French election.
In today’s world there is a constant torrent of information at everyone’s fingertips, but it’s essential that we all employ critical thinking to determine what is fact and what is intended to confuse voters politically. Always remember to check your sources and the evidence when reading anything online. You only have one vote. Make sure it’s informed.
Articles published in the Gauntlet‘s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.