Tim Shipman of the Murdoch Sunday Times, who is for some reason looked up to by other journalists and pundits, was distinctly unimpressed by the story coming from the Observer over the weekend about Cambridge Analytica. News of the massive data breach was as nothing to The Great Man; he’d seen it all before.
Shippers wanted to know what all the fuss was about. “Every political party in the western world has been using Facebook and its data to win elections since 2008. This has been normal for years” he scoffed, going on to rub it in with “Vote Leave ran a fake football guessing game to harvest data. It’s all in my first book. Every time a political party asks you to reply to an email they are harvesting any data you reply with. This is so unremarkable it’s bananas”. Non-story! And where have we heard that before?
Tim Shipman - and another wrong call
Oh I dunno, how about 2009 when Nick Davies first told the world about the phone hacking scandal? That was a “Non-story” too, until the whole thing blew open two years later, the Screws was closed, the Murdochs’ first Sky bid foundered, then Andy Coulson and his pals got guilty and went off for a stretch in Belmarsh.
Why Shippers is once again shipping an unfeasibly large quantity of bull is not hard to figure out. One, as I noted yesterday, this story has only just got going, and there is a lot more to come. How much was hinted at by Kevin Beaumont, who revealed “This Facebook and Cambridge Analytica story is leading Channel 4 News - C4 News just disclosed they’ve been undercover at Cambridge Analytica filming, they will be releasing footage over the next few days”. And there was more.
Two, David Carroll observed “Alexander Nix summoned back to Parliament to explain misleading statements. [Mark] Zuckerberg invited. Whistleblower, Christopher Wylie invited”. Someone in Parliament thinks it’s serious. But Shipman doesn’t?
Three, although Leave EU and Cambridge Analytica are now claiming they didn’t really work with one another, that’s not what was said in the run-up to the EU referendum, as Isabel Oakeshott explained at ConHome: “[Arron Banks] has drafted in American campaigners Goddard Gunster (who boast of a 90 per cent success rate in referendum campaigns around the world) and Cambridge Analytica, which specialises in targeted voter messaging (and makes similarly impressive sounding claims about hit rates).”
And Four, something that a Conservative-supporting media organisation might want to gloss over right now, the Tories have had their own talks with Cambridge Analytica. We know this as the Mail on Sunday devoted a feature to it, telling readers “Theresa May wants to deploy an army of computerised ‘mind-readers’ to help her win the next Election, sources claim … Tory chiefs have been in talks with Cambridge Analytica, the polling data experts credited with playing a key role in Donald Trump’s presidential victory”.
Plus, guess who was cited? “The British company, run by Old Etonian Alexander Nix, 40, uses computers to ‘mine’ huge amounts of data on voters - including Facebook likes”. That’s the same Alexander Nix who’s being summoned back to Parliament to explain potentially misleading them. Talking about Facebook data mining.
Yet someone out there pretends it’s not a big deal. Hello Tim Shipman.