Get the key ideas from

Mindf*ck

Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America

By Christopher Wylie
18-minute read
Audio available
Mindf*ck by Christopher Wylie

Mindf*ck (2019), written by a whistleblower, tells the story of the largest data crime in history to date. On the eve of the 2016 United States presidential election, consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested the Facebook data from 87 million people and used it to conduct a mass disinformation campaign. Now, the full story has finally come to light.

  • Americans who want to understand Cambridge Analytica’s role in the Trump election
  • Left- and right-wingers feeling increasingly resentful of the other side
  • Brits interested in why the Brexit referendum turned out the way it did

Christopher Wylie is a Canadian data consultant known for being the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower. He now works in fashion-trend forecasting in London.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,500+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

Mindf*ck

Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America

By Christopher Wylie
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Mindf*ck by Christopher Wylie
Synopsis

Mindf*ck (2019), written by a whistleblower, tells the story of the largest data crime in history to date. On the eve of the 2016 United States presidential election, consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested the Facebook data from 87 million people and used it to conduct a mass disinformation campaign. Now, the full story has finally come to light.

Key idea 1 of 11

New data technology and the use of social media are changing the way political campaigns spread their messages.

In the past, volunteering in a political campaign meant spending long hours designing and distributing leaflets or phone banking just to garner a few votes. This system was impersonal, impractical, and worst of all, ineffective.

So when the author Chris Wylie, a young Canadian data consultant, was approached by the Liberal Democrats – a British political party – to help out with their 2010 campaign, he was horrified by what he saw in their office. There were electrical cables taped to the walls, a database designed during the Vietnam War, and obsessive discussion over how many leaflets they should print.

The key message here is: New data technology and the use of social media are changing the way political campaigns spread their messages.

Compared to the Obama campaign Wylie had observed just a few years prior, the Liberal Democrats, or Lib Dems, were still working with caveman technology. Then again, Obama’s data team was light years ahead of everyone else. They understood how to leverage new technology to ensure that their messaging was as airtight and effective as possible.

How did they do that? Simple – by understanding the kinds of people they needed to talk to, and exactly what messages would resonate with them.

Obama’s team used the Voter Activation Network (VAN), a data tool containing reams of information on voters, from their age and race to their magazine subscription and airline miles. Using this data, the team could predict whether someone was likely to be a Democrat or a Republican and which issues might be important to them. Then, it was just a matter of the team microtargeting their advertising. This meant crafting messages geared toward specific types of voters to sway their opinions and get them to the polls.

As effective a strategy as this was for the Obama campaign, it was a dark moment for democracy. Political discourse had begun to resemble less of a town square and more of an online ad network. Different voters – even those on the same side of the aisle – were receiving different messages than their friends and families. Worse, those messages could be tailor-made to look like they came from a trusted friend, despite their calculated political intent.

Republicans were unable to cope with the Democrats’ sophisticated and targeted messaging on social media. But all of that was soon to change.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.