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Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  1,077 ratings  ·  202 reviews
For the first time, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells the inside story of the data mining and psychological manipulation behind the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, connecting Facebook, WikiLeaks, Russian intelligence, and international hackers.

Mindf*ck goes deep inside Cambridge Analytica's "American operations," which were driven by Steve
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 8th 2019 by Random House
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Average rating 4.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,077 ratings  ·  202 reviews

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READ THIS: My pick for best non-fiction, true crime, psychological thriller - ever!
Can't believe I wrote so much and didn't once mention Steve Bannon, who is the one who thought to turn this research into psychological warfare.

“I don’t know what else to say other than I was more naïve than I thought I was at the time. . .

When I joined SCL, I was there to help the firm explore areas like counter-radicalisation in order to help Britain, America and their allies defend themselves against new
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America by Christopher Wylie is a cautionary tale about politics, Steve Bannon, Big Data and how to set Americans against one another and the whole thing brought to you by a twenty-four-year-old Canadian whistleblower. This is a classic case of food for thought and this book should be read before the next election.
This book gets my five stars, simply by opening my eyes to the idea of data as a commodity. The title could not be more apt, the reading experience was a total Mindf*uck and I really feel strongly this should be a compulsory read for those seeking to understand the dark nexus of politics and social media.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just... read this book. And then walk through the world. You won't be the same.
Alok Vaid-Menon
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book blew my mind.

With the devastating election news from the UK and the rise of bigotry across the world, it is crucial to understand the role of social media. The contest over data in the digital realm is the new playing field where elections and ideologies are made and mapped, and yet these machinations are invisibilized. It has become possible to create an “artificial society,” one in which strangers can hold puppet strings of people across the globe – algorithms do not just structure
If you're looking to understand Cambridge Analytica, datamining and their inextricable link with contemporary politics you could probably do a lot worse than this book, where you get the story straight from the (proverbial) horse's mouth. Chris Wylie worked at CA, so has all the intel on how the company excelled to have the wield it did. If I was rating purely on the importance of the topic this would get five stars, easily.

But that's not how I rate books, unfortunately, and I struggled with a
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book details the efforts of Cambridge analytica, Steve Bannon, the Mercer’s and Russian intelligence to influence the 2016 U.S. elections and the U. K. Brexit vote. The writer worked for the company and became a whistleblower. Everybody should read this account which rings true and begs the question why did they all get away with it? Why hasn’t anyone one of the principal players gone to jail? Big data and tech companies like Facebook made it possible and clearly the threat is still alive. ...more
Oliver Bogler
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We owe Mr. Wylie a debt of gratitude for coming forward, at considerable personal risk and cost, to tell this story. And he tells it well, and clearly and concisely. What emerges is of course, simply horrific, and at times intensely cringe-worthy. We see upper-class-Brit-twits from, as we say nowadays, central casting destroying the world while having a lovely time and indulging sordid fever dreams of empire. We see the people who crawled out from under diverse rocks seize the tools created by ...more
Niklas Pivic
First: is this memoir better than Edward Snowden's? Yes. They're different and should be treated as such, but, yes, this one is a better book.

This book is better because of its style and how human it is, to me. While Snowden's report on what not only the US government did to its citizens and the rest of the world, together with some of the biggest tech companies on our planet, Wylie's ingeniously written, sly, funny, and extremely dark book touches several very human nerves, including what I
Micah Grossman
Oct 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Too self serving, but the first-hand reports of Cambridge Analytica are worth the price of admission. He makes good regulation arguments toward the end. He really, really, really wants you to think he was different, remorseful, and not as evil as the others: good luck with that.
Aditi ~ A Thousand Words A Million Books
Brilliant. Makes you think, scares you and just an overall stellar explanation and read of the behind the scenes Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Tom Walsh
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well documented account of Cambridge Analytica’s Tactics.

This insider tale of Bannon’s, Mercer’s and other Big Money interests’ perversion of a powerful technology to destroy the integrity of the US 2016 and British Brexit elections as well as other elections around the world. But much more importantly, a well-reasoned warning to the World of the power of Technologies like Facebook and Data Mining to tear apart any semblance of Privacy Rights and ultimately of Human Free Will.

Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Minus for or against politics or political sway, the mere fact that this was pulled off is fascinating all by itself. Minus who is running and who the president is, forget current names in the news and party names; forget all that! One thinks this is sci-fi fantasy and the possibility this could actually happen, but to actually have happened? Really? And we fell for it like little bots on a game board which is all we were to them. THIS IS A TRUE ACCOUNTING. The first plot was to deter the black ...more
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you read nothing else this year, you need to read this.

It throws light over Cambridge Analytica, and the lengths that it would go to one to show just what they could do, and what they were prepared to do for their clients.

The shape of things to come, were shown with data provided by small Caribbean Islands and smaller African Nations. This data, was twisted and manipulated, to coerce people into doing things that they wouldn't normally do. Whether, this be in-sighting violence or manipulating
Meredith Mara
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. And much more insight than Netflix's The Great Hack. Frightening in it's eye-openingness.
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thanks, I hate it.

This is one of the most horrifying books I've read in recent years, but it's certainly fascinating and informative.

That said, I'm certainly no happier for having learned in more detail about Cambridge Analytica's data-driven psychological warfare and the ways in which Facebook was weaponized to skew recent elections.

Christopher Wylie is a complex person who seems to be trying to atone for his misdeeds through publicly exposing the dirty work he engaged in. Whether or not he
Stephen Kramar
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve read over and over again that our data is the new oil/gold, but never really understood why until I read this book. A truly terrifying tale about how the billionaires are trying to recreate cultures to their way of thinking, and how we are letting them. I think this story needs to be taught to every high school student in America.
Oct 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
The text is rather simplistic. The people are morons, semi-autonomous drones with no will or reason. On the other side there are powerful wizards ready to program these drones to do something that is pure evil. And there is Wylie, the knight in shinny armor ready to slay the dragon.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't decide, is this a horror story or a tragedy?

The bottom line is this, this book scared me, it will always haunt me and it has proven that monsters are REAL.
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those looking to become politically engaged
Recommended to Jake by: Radiantflux
I truly doubt that any rhetorician, persuader or influencer in history could come close to understanding the abilities in modern technology to impose widespread influence with computer software, and big data. Such ideas would have been historically incoherent to people who helped birth modern Governments and the ideas such as liberty, and power balances, which they rest upon. This is precisely why we are treading the water of a new crisis. The political infrastructure of modern industrialized ...more
I was overcome with admiration of the author of this book and how well written it is though I’m sure he had help. Mindf*ck tells Christopher Wylie’s story about his work for Cambridge Analytica and how it affected the BREXIT vote in Great Britain and the 2016 presidential election in the USA. While steadily being taken over by the Russians in the background and Steven Bannon in the foreground, Cambridge Analytica used Facebook to create personality and opinion quizzes to entice people to agree ...more
Les Simpson
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I clearly remember that one of the loudest rallying cries around the emergence of online social media was that various platforms would help marginalized people find supportive communities and they would learn they are not alone in the world. One of the loudest warnings was the possible creation of “echo chambers” where people would become stagnant in their thinking because they would never be challenged by thoughts or opinions counter to their own.

Flash forward to 2019.

While online social media
Xijian Lim
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I breezed past this book in about 2 weeks, which is a testament to the way the book flows. When I first heard about Wylie and Cambridge Analytica (CA) in 2017, I really wanted to get a clearer picture of the way these guys were able to roll out behavioural questionnaires en masse on FB. I worked for an online social media analytics company and mastered in psychology in my undergraduate degree, hence the keenness in learning about what CA did, and how they did what they claimed to do.

The book
Sandra Fish
Dec 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Mixed feelings about this. Wylie seems quite full of himself - he's the center of everything, the mind behind the data of the f*ck, as it were, or so he makes it seem. But there are many points here where the timeline is quite inconsistent, and one British government inquiry noted that Wylie was actually on contract as an intern, and left in July 2014, at a point when much of Cambridge Analytica's meddling in the U.S. elections of 2014 had yet to occur. There's plenty here that just doesn't add ...more
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: work
Incredible. Still can't stop thinking about it.
Thomas Lønn Hammer
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, ai, culture
A little self righteous and unnecessarily (although understandably) politically biased - still incredibly insightful and worrisome. I honestly don't see any way of stopping companies like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica from manipulating public opinion, data is simply to valuable and easily accessible.. It may end up like the stock market, with algorithms fighting each other over human opinions instead of maximizing returns.

"By analysing just 300+ likes, Facebooks algorithms knows you more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. For those of you that think social media is harmful, this book confirms that companies like Cambridge Analytica are manipulating big data (mainly from Facebook) and using algorithms and artificial intelligence to target Facebook individual users or groups with a specific narrative with the end goal of inciting anger and changing the world. Psychological warfare is the new tool to disrupt countries and their culture and Facebook is the chosen platform to do that. Interesting, scary read.
Marco Pavan
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Fuck yeah this book is awesome
Travis Mcgee
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars rounded up to 5 stars because of how important this book is. The book is well-written and other than it dragging a bit midway and some technical parts that were difficult for me to understand it moved along nicely. I was not very well informed about the innovation to weaponize data so this book was a revelation to me. I thought his observations about potential regulatory interventions to be a ray of hope to counterbalance the dismal path our culture has taken that is described in the ...more
Andrew Robins
Nov 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book but at the back of my mind was the nagging thought that, whilst Chris Wylie proudly wears his whistle blower badge, and is to be applauded for that, he managed to work with these horrible right wing ghouls for quite a while.

Maybe if he'd done the right thing a little earlier, we wouldn't be lumbered with Trump and Brexit - the toxic campaign for the latter having changed this country irreparably.

Fortunately he eventually did do the right thing, and people like Carol
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“In one experiment, CA would show people on online panels pictures of simple bar graphs about uncontroversial things (e.g., the usage rates of mobile phones or sales of a car type) and the majority would be able to read the graph correctly. However, unbeknownst to the respondents, the data behind these graphs had actually been derived from politically controversial topics, such as income inequality, climate change, or deaths from gun violence. When the labels of the same graphs were later switched to their actual controversial topic, respondents who were made angry by identity threats were more likely to misread the relabeled graphs that they had previously understood. What CA observed was that when respondents were angry, their need for complete and rational explanations was also significantly reduced. In particular, anger put people in a frame of mind in which they were more indiscriminately punitive, particularly to out-groups. They would also underestimate the risk of negative outcomes. This led CA to discover that even if a hypothetical trade war with China or Mexico meant the loss of American jobs and profits, people primed with anger would tolerate that domestic economic damage if it meant they could use a trade war to punish immigrant groups and urban liberals.” 2 likes
“Scale is the elephant in the room. When Silicon Valley executives excuse themselves and say their platform’s scale is so big that it’s really hard to prevent mass shootings from being broadcast or ethnic cleansing from being incited on their platforms, this is not an excuse—they are implicitly acknowledging that what they have created is too big for them to manage on their own. And yet, they also implicitly believe that their right to profit from these systems outweighs the social costs others bear. So when companies like Facebook say, “We have heard feedback that we must do more,” as they did when their platform was used to live-broadcast mass shootings in New Zealand, we should ask them a question: If these problems are too big for you to solve on the fly, why should you be allowed to release untested products before you understand their potential consequences for society?” 1 likes
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