CEO of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix speaks at the 2016 Concordia Summit. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

A 4-month undercover investigation conducted by the UK's Channel 4 News revealed that Cambridge Analytica says it has secretly campaigned in more than 200 elections around the world, using shady tactics that include bribery and prostitution in order to entrap politicians in compromising situations. The company says they "entirely refute" the allegations.

Why it matters: Cambridge Analytica worked for Donald Trump's campaign during the 2016 presidential elections, and is at the center of a controversy for its role in harvesting data from more than 50 million Facebook profiles. Facebook announced Monday that it has hired a digital forensics firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of the company.

A Channel 4 reporter, posing as a fixer for a client working on elections in Sri Lanka, secretly filmed Cambridge Analytica's chief executive Alexander Nix as he described some of the tactics the firm employs:

  • “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet.”
  • Nix also said they could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house,” adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well.”
  • “…Many of our clients don’t want to be seen to be working with a foreign company… so often we set up, if we are working then we can set up fake IDs and websites, we can be students doing research projects attached to a university, we can be tourists, there’s so many options we can look at. I have lots of experience in this.”
  • Another CA executive, Mark Turnbull, discussed how the firm pushes damaging material onto social media: “… we just put information into the bloodstream of the internet, and then, and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again… like a remote control. It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘that’s propaganda’, because the moment you think ‘that’s propaganda’, the next question is, ‘who’s put that out?’”

Statement from Cambridge Analytica to Channel 4:

“We entirely refute any allegation that Cambridge Analytica or any of its affiliates use entrapment, bribes, or so-called “honey-traps” for any purpose whatsoever… We routinely undertake conversations with prospective clients to try to tease out any unethical or illegal intentions…”

What's next: Part three of Channel 4's documentary on Cambridge Analytica will air tomorrow at 3pm ET, and will reportedly focus on the firm's work in the U.S.

Go deeper

Updated 44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 a.m. ET: 12,740,971 — Total deaths: 565,716 — Total recoveries — 7,022,846Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 a.m. ET: 3,247,782 — Total deaths: 134,815 — Total recoveries: 995,576 — Total tested: 39,553,395Map.
  3. Politics: Trump wears face mask in public for first time.
  4. Public health: Fauci hasn't briefed Trump on the coronavirus pandemic in at least two months — We're losing the war on the coronavirus.
  5. States: Louisiana governor issues face mask mandate.
  6. World: India reimposes lockdowns as coronavirus cases soar.
1 hour ago - World

Hundreds of thousands vote in Hong Kong's opposition primaries

Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images

Organizers say more than 500,000 Hong Kong residents have voted in primary elections held by pro-democracy opposition groups on Saturday and Sunday, despite fears of a government crackdown under Beijing's draconian new national security law, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The primaries, which aren't part of the city's official political process, are intended to whittle down the field of pro-democracy candidates in order to avoid splitting the vote against pro-China ruling politicians in September's legislative elections.

Biden's doctrine: Erase Trump, re-embrace the world

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto, and Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Foreign policy will look drastically different if Joe Biden defeats President Trump in November, advisers tell Axios — starting with a Day One announcement that the U.S. is re-entering the Paris Climate Agreement and new global coordination of the coronavirus response.

The big picture: If Trump's presidency started the "America First" era of withdrawal from global alliances, Biden's team says his presidency would be the opposite: a re-engagement with the world and an effort to rebuild those alliances — fast.