Who doesn’t remember the scandal surrounding Cambridge Analytica? It probably became the most prominent symbol of previously unheard of threats to the stability of democratic order in the West.
Liberal politicians, media and public opinion makers believed that the social media data scandal was proof that Brexit and Donald Trump’s election — both events which shocked the West in 2016 — were not the result of the political decisions of angry voters but instead resulted from “manipulation”. Therefore, these two shock events did not arise from voters’ personal beliefs.
Instead, liberal and left-wing thinkers and policymakers believed that these political events were executed by dark powers which used Cambridge Analytica and other such companies to influence the result of the referendum and election.
According to an article in the British Spectator, written by Brendan O’Neil, after three years of intensive investigation, the British Information Commissioner, which is the British data protection authority, declared that there was no convincing evidence for the existence of a conspiracy associated with Cambridge Analytica which would have impacted the Brexit referendum.
What can we learn from this story?
It will unfortunately not change the beliefs that the deepening crisis in the West is the result of conspiracies and dark powers and not economic, cultural, identity and political mistakes.
What is important is that while conspiracy theories were usually attributed to the radical right and left, today they are being used by the liberal mainstream to explain their errors and defeats.
The liberal mind has not shown itself to be resistant to emotions and hysterics at a time when reality begins to differ from its desires. Perhaps this type of mindset is even more easily taken in by hysteria in times of crisis than by those who simply use common sense.
There is also another side to all of this.
Even if the entire data scandal turned out to be an ideological strawman used by the left, it still does not take away from the real issue, which has to do with the insidious methods that social media and tech giants use and store our personal data.