Breaking News - Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower Chris Wylie reveals new info...

At 10:00AM GMT this morning, Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie revealed publicly for the first time that the Donald Trump campaign used fashion brands to help win the 2016 US presidential election.

His remarks were made on stage at the VOICES conference of The Business of Fashion, in Oxfordshire, UK.

At The Business of Fashion’s VOICES gathering, the whistle-blower revealed publicly for the first time that political marketing firm Cambridge Analytica used Facebook ‘likes’ for fashion labels such as Wrangler and LL Bean to target people with pro-Trump messaging during the 2016 US presidential election.

Today Christopher Wylie, the whistle-blower to the British political marketing firm Cambridge Analytica, revealed for the first time that the firm actively weaponized fashion brands to help elect Donald Trump president of the United States. 

Speaking at BoF’s VOICES, Wylie presented publicly previously undisclosed evidence that Cambridge Analytica used preferences for fashion labels expressed on Facebook to build the algorithms that targeted people with pro-Trump messaging during the 2016 US presidential election campaign.

Wylie, who has not previously described in detail the subject matter areas Cambridge Analytica favoured in harvesting its insights from social media, disclosed that fashion was one of Cambridge Analytica’s primary tools for determining how to influence public opinion.

“We were about to destroy the world together. I became Icarus and put on wax wings and flew into the sun,” said Wylie, recalling the pact he forged with Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon. 

Wylie revealed a graphic brand matrix which illustrates correlations between fashion brands, including Wrangler and LL Bean and five psychological traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism) that were used by Cambridge Analytica to target political messaging. The matrix was developed based on research conducted by Cambridge Analytica, in consultation with psychologists.

Wylie, who was central to the development of this strategy, asserted in his on-stage disclosure that an individual’s affinity for certain fashion labels is a strong signal of susceptibility to populist political messaging.

The approach was a new “weapon of mass destruction,” said Wylie, who first joined SCL Group, the precursor to Cambridge Analytica, when it was a military contractor, developing cultural weapons to fight extremism and other ideological threats, and became its research director.

Wylie said the weapons the firm developed, like traditional munitions, were composed of payloads (narratives) and targeting systems (algorithms) but the battleground was virtual, and they were being deployed against the general public, not military installations. “The difference between Facebook and the NSA is simple but profound,” he added. “The NSA’s targets are extremists, foreign spies… on Facebook you are the target.”

Wylie cited Andrew Breitbart — the late populist who founded Breitbart News, a platform that was instrumental in electing Donald Trump — in recalling “Politics is downstream from culture.” Wylie suggests that it’s also downstream from fashion, the $2.4 trillion industry which is central to culture in America and internationally.

Wylie concluded “we need cultural defence and we all make and define these cultural narratives,” said Wylie, to a standing ovation. “We depend on you to not only make our culture but protect our culture. It is up to you if Trump or Brexit become the Crocs or the Chanel of our political age.”

Gerry McCann