Cambridge Analytica CEO claims it influenced US election in 2016

Suspended CEO boasted his company played decisive role in 2016 US elections

LONDON/SAN FRANCISCO The suspended chief executive of Cambridge Analytica said in a secretly recorded video broadcast yesterday that his UK-based political consultancy's online campaign played a decisive role in US President Donald Trump's 2016 election victory.

CEO Alexander Nix's comments, which could not be verified, are potentially a further problem for Facebook as it faces lawmakers' scrutiny in the US and Europe over Cambridge Analytica's improper use of 50 million Facebook users' personal data to target voters.

The social media network's shares fell for a second day, closing down 2.5 per cent.

The company has lost nearly US$50 billion (S$65 billion) of its stock market value over the last two days.

Cambridge Analytica's board of directors suspended Mr Nix on Tuesday, shortly before the second part of British broadcaster Channel 4's expose of the firm's methods.

In the programme, Mr Nix describes questionable practices used to influence foreign elections and said his firm did all the research, analytics and targeting of voters for Mr Trump's digital and TV campaigns.

He also boasts he met Mr Trump when he was the Republican presidential candidate "many times".

Mr Nix's comments "do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation", Cambridge Analytica said in a statement yesterday.

It has denied all the media claims.

Mr Brad Parscale, the 2016 Trump campaign's main digital adviser who dealt regularly with Cambridge Analytica, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr Nix's claims.

Mr Jared Kushner, Mr Trump's son-in-law and now senior adviser, oversaw the Trump campaign's digital operations. One former Trump adviser said Mr Kushner brought Cambridge Analytica into the 2016 campaign effort.

Mr Kushner's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook said it had been told by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the leading US consumer regulator, that it would receive a letter this week with questions about the data acquired by Cambridge Analytica.

It said it had no indication of a formal investigation.

"The entire company is outraged we were deceived," Facebook said in a statement yesterday. "We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people's information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens."

If the FTC finds Facebook violated terms of the consent decree, it has the power to fine the company thousands of dollars a day per violation, which could add up to billions of dollars.- REUTERS