UK investigating Cambridge Analytica, Facebook

Members of the audience put up their hands during the question section at the end of a talk from Chris Wylie, from Canada, who once worked for the UK-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, entitled "The Most Important Whistleblower Since Snowden: The Mind Behind Cambridge Analytica" at the Frontline Club in London, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (AP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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UK investigating Cambridge Analytica, Facebook

LONDON: Britain’s information commissioner says she is using all her legal powers to investigate Facebook and political campaign consultants Cambridge Analytica over the alleged misuse of millions of people’s data.
Commissioner Elizabeth Denham is pursuing a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s servers. The company allegedly used data mined from Facebook to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.
She told BBC on Tuesday she is also investigating Facebook and has asked the company not to pursue its own audit of Cambridge Analytica’s data use. She said Facebook has agreed.
“Our advice to Facebook is to back away and let us go in and do our work,” she said.
Cambridge Analytica said it is committed to helping the UK investigation and offered to share all the information it has asked for. It did not specify whether it would give access to its servers.
Denham said the prime allegation against Cambridge Analytica is that it acquired personal data in an unauthorized way, adding that the data provisions act requires platforms like Facebook to have strong safeguards against misuse of data.
Chris Wylie, who once worked for Cambridge Analytica, was quoted as saying the company used the data to build psychological profiles so voters could be targeted with ads and stories.
Denham launched her investigation after weekend reports that Cambridge Analytica improperly used information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts. Facebook has suspended the company from the social network.
Britain’s Channel 4 used an undercover investigation to record Cambridge Analytica’s chief executive, Alexander Nix, saying that the company could use unorthodox methods to wage successful political campaigns for clients.
He said the company could “send some girls” around to a rival candidate’s house, suggesting that girls from Ukraine are beautiful and effective in this role.
He also said the company could “offer a large amount of money” to a rival candidate and have the whole exchange recorded so it could be posted on the Internet to show that the candidate was corrupt.
Nix says in a statement on the company’s website that he deeply regrets his role in the meeting and has apologized to staff.
“I am aware how this looks, but it is simply not the case,” he said. “I must emphatically state that Cambridge Analytica does not condone or engage in entrapment, bribes or so-called ‘honeytraps’, and nor does it use untrue material for any purposed.”
The data harvesting used by Cambridge Analytica has also triggered calls for further investigation from the European Union, as well as federal and state officials in the United States.


Malaysian news company seeks to have anti-fake news law revoked

Updated 39 min 51 sec ago
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Malaysian news company seeks to have anti-fake news law revoked

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian media company on Friday filed a suit seeking to declare unconstitutional a new law against fake news, which critics say is aimed at curbing dissent and free speech ahead of a May 9 general election.
Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government secured parliament’s approval for the law this month. It stipulates jail of up to six years and fines of up to 500,000 ringgit ($128,000) for offenders.
Mkini Dotcom, the company that runs the news site Malaysiakini, is seeking a judicial review of the law on the grounds it violates civil liberty and freedom of speech.
“We feel this action is very important as the act goes against constitutional provisions of freedom of speech,” Premesh Chandran Jeyachandran, Mkini Dotcom’s chief executive officer, told reporters.
“The best way to counter fake news is with facts.”
In its affidavit, the company said the law placed an “insurmountable burden” in proving that every item published “by way of reportage or opinion is true in every sense.”
The government and the prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Governments elsewhere in Southeast Asia, including Singapore and the Philippines, have also proposed laws aimed at clamping down on the spread of “fake news,” to the dismay of media rights advocates.
The Malaysian government defined fake news as “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false” and included features, visuals and audio recordings.
The law covers digital publications and social media and also applies to offenders outside Malaysia, including foreigners, if Malaysia or a Malaysian citizen are affected.
The government said it hoped the law would make the public more responsible and cautious in sharing news and information.
But the opposition and critics say the law, along with a fast-tracked realignment of electoral boundaries, were attempts by Najib to boost his election chances.
Najib’s government and the Election Commission have denied the accusations.
Najib enters the election weighed down by a multi-billion dollar financial scandal linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and public anger over rising prices, blamed on a consumption tax he introduced in 2015.
Najib denies any wrongdoing in connection with losses at the state fund and has defended his government’s economic record.
Najib’s coalition is expected to win the polls but a smaller majority could leave him open to a leadership challenge.