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Cambridge Analytica whistleblower briefs House Dems

The Hill logo The Hill 4/24/2018 Harper Neidig

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Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower behind revelations about Cambridge Analytica's handling of Facebook user data, on Tuesday briefed a group of House Democrats behind closed doors.

Following the interview, Democrats from the House Judiciary and the Oversight and Government Reform committees warned about the prospect of election interference on social media and urged the panels' chairs to hold full hearings on the data scandal.

"We must do more to learn how foreign actors collect and weaponize our data against us, and what impact social media has on our democratic processes," the members said in a joint statement. "Cambridge Analytica is not the first company to engage in these types of tactics, nor will they be last if we fail to conduct oversight and investigate this matter thoroughly."

The Democrats said that Judiciary Republicans had refused an invitation to participate in the interview.

Members leaving the briefing said they were struck by how Cambridge Analytica, which is based in London, operated with the sophistication of a military unit and worried that the U.S. was vulnerable to such firms manipulating elections.

"A very disturbing testimony in my view, because it really shows how there was a coordinated effort to mislead and to use propaganda to influence an American presidential election," Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) told reporters.

Cambridge Analytica has denied using the improperly obtained data during its work for President Trump's 2016 campaign.

Several called for testimony from others linked to the political consultancy, like former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and Republican mega-donor Robert Mercer, two of the firm's founders.

Wylie's revelation that his former employer improperly obtained data on tens of millions of Facebook users prompted a massive outcry on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers from both parties lashing out at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg when he appeared in a pair of back-to-back hearings earlier this month.

But Republicans have shown little interest in exploring the firm's political work. Cambridge Analytica has served several GOP figures, including Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), national security adviser John Bolton and Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.).

The group of Democrats blasted Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) for instead focusing on "repeated investigations of Hillary Clinton's emails and holding sham hearings centered on the theory that conservatives are unfairly censored on social media."

Spokespeople for Gowdy and Goodlatte did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

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