Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • So, on the day after the Brexit vote,

  • in June 2016,

  • when Britain woke up to the shock

  • of discovering that we're leaving the European Union,

  • my editor at the "Observer" newspaper in the UK

  • asked me to go back to South Wales, where I grew up, and to write a report.

  • And so I went to a town called Ebbw Vale.

  • Here it is.

  • It's in the South Wales Valleys, which is this quite special place.

  • So it's had this very, sort of rich, working-class culture,

  • and it's famous for its Welsh male voice choirs and rugby and its coal.

  • But when I was a teenager, the coal mines and the steelworks closed,

  • and the entire area was devastated.

  • And I went there because it had one of the highest "Leave" votes in the country.

  • Sixty-two percent of the people here voted to leave the European Union.

  • And I wanted to know why.

  • When I got there, I was just a bit taken aback,

  • because the last time I went to Ebbw Vale,

  • it looked like this.

  • And now, it looks like this.

  • This is a new 33-million-pound college of further education

  • that was mostly funded by the European Union.

  • And this is the new sports center

  • that's at the middle of 350-million-pound regeneration project

  • that's being funded by the European Union.

  • And this is the new 77-million-pound road-improvement scheme,

  • and there's a new train line, a new railway station,

  • and they're all being funded by the European Union.

  • And it's not as if any of this is a secret,

  • because there's big signs like this everywhere.

  • [EU Funds: Investing in Wales]

  • (Laughter)

  • I had this sort of weird sense of unreality,

  • walking around the town.

  • And it came to a head

  • when I met this young man in front of the sports center.

  • And he told me that he had voted to leave,

  • because the European Union had done nothing for him.

  • He was fed up with it.

  • And all around town, people told me the same thing.

  • They said that they wanted to take back control,

  • which was one of the slogans in the campaign.

  • And they told me that they were most fed up

  • with the immigrants and with the refugees.

  • They'd had enough.

  • Which was odd.

  • Because walking around, I didn't meet any immigrants or refugees.

  • I met one Polish woman who told me

  • she was practically the only foreigner in town.

  • And when I checked the figures,

  • I discovered that Ebbw Vale actually has

  • one of the lowest rates of immigration in the country.

  • And so I was just a bit baffled,

  • because I couldn't really understand

  • where people were getting their information from.

  • Because it was the right-wing tabloid newspapers

  • which printed all these stories about immigration.

  • And this is a very much left-wing Labour stronghold.

  • But then after the article came out, this woman got in touch with me.

  • And she was from Ebbw Vale,

  • and she told me about all this stuff that she'd seen on Facebook.

  • I was like, "What stuff?"

  • And she said it was all this quite scary stuff about immigration,

  • and especially about Turkey.

  • So I tried to find it.

  • But there was nothing there.

  • Because there's no archive of ads that people had seen

  • or what had been pushed into their news feeds.

  • No trace of anything, gone completely dark.

  • And this referendum that will have this profound effect forever on Britain --

  • it's already had a profound effect:

  • the Japanese car manufacturers that came to Wales and the north east

  • to replace the mining jobs --

  • they are already going because of Brexit.

  • And this entire referendum took place in darkness,

  • because it took place on Facebook.

  • And what happens on Facebook stays on Facebook,

  • because only you see your news feed, and then it vanishes,

  • so it's impossible to research anything.

  • So we have no idea who saw what ads

  • or what impact they had,

  • or what data was used to target these people.

  • Or even who placed the ads, or how much money was spent,

  • or even what nationality they were.

  • But Facebook does.

  • Facebook has these answers,

  • and it's refused to give them to us.

  • Our parliament has asked Mark Zuckerberg multiple times to come to Britain

  • and to give us these answers.

  • And every single time, he's refused.

  • And you have to wonder why.

  • Because what I and other journalists have uncovered

  • is that multiple crimes took place during the referendum.

  • And they took place on Facebook.

  • It's because in Britain, we limit the amount of money

  • that you can spend in an election.

  • And it's because in the 19th century,

  • people would walk around with literally wheelbarrows of cash

  • and just buy voters.

  • So we passed these strict laws to stop that from happening.

  • But those laws don't work anymore.

  • This referendum took place almost entirely online.

  • And you can spend any amount of money on Facebook or on Google or on YouTube ads

  • and nobody will know, because they're black boxes.

  • And this is what happened.

  • We've actually got no idea of the full extent of it.

  • But we do know that in the last days before the Brexit vote,

  • the official "Vote Leave" campaign

  • laundered nearly three quarters of a million pounds

  • through another campaign entity

  • that our electoral commission has ruled was illegal,

  • and it's referred it to the police.

  • And with this illegal cash,

  • "Vote Leave" unleashed a fire hose of disinformation.

  • Ads like this.

  • [Turkey's 76m people joining the EU]

  • This is a lie, it's a total lie.

  • Turkey is not joining the European Union.

  • There's not even any discussions of it joining the European Union.

  • And most of us, we never saw these ads,

  • because we were not the target of them.

  • "Vote Leave" identified a tiny sliver of people

  • who it identified as persuadable, and they saw them.

  • And the only reason we are seeing these now

  • is because parliament forced Facebook to hand them over.

  • And maybe you think,

  • "Well, it was just a bit of overspending.

  • It's a few lies."

  • But this was the biggest electoral fraud in Britain for 100 years.

  • In a once-in-a-generation vote

  • that hinged upon just one percent of the electorate.

  • And it was just one of the crimes that took place in the referendum.

  • There was another group,

  • which was headed by this man, Nigel Farage,

  • the one to the right of Trump.

  • And his group, "Leave.EU" -- it also broke the law.

  • It broke British electoral laws and British data laws,

  • and it's also being referred to the police.

  • And this man, Arron Banks, he funded this campaign.

  • And in a completely separate case,

  • he's being referred to our National Crime Agency,

  • our equivalent of the FBI,

  • because our electoral commission

  • has concluded they don't know where his money came from.

  • Or if it was even British.

  • And I'm not even going to go into the lies that Arron Banks has told

  • about his covert relationship with the Russian government.

  • Or the weird timing of Nigel Farage's meetings with Julian Assange

  • and with Trump's buddy, Roger Stone, now indicted,

  • immediately before two massive WikiLeaks dumps,

  • both of which happened to benefit Donald Trump.

  • But I will tell you that Brexit and Trump were intimately entwined.

  • This man told me that Brexit was the petri dish for Trump.

  • And we know it's the same people, the same companies,

  • the same data, the same techniques,

  • the same use of hate and fear.

  • This is what they were posting on Facebook.

  • And I don't even want to call this a lie,

  • [Immigration without assimilation equals invasion]

  • because it feels more like a hate crime to me.

  • I don't have to tell you

  • that hate and fear are being sown online all across the world.

  • Not just in Britain and America, but in France and in Hungary

  • and Brazil and Myanmar and New Zealand.

  • And we know there is this dark undertow which is connecting us all globally.

  • And it is flowing via the technology platforms.

  • But we only see a tiny amount of what's going on on the surface.

  • And I only found out anything about this dark underbelly

  • because I started looking into Trump's relationship to Farage,

  • into a company called Cambridge Analytica.

  • And I spent months tracking down an ex-employee, Christopher Wiley.

  • And he told me how this company, that worked for both Trump and Brexit,

  • had profiled people politically

  • in order to understand their individual fears,

  • to better target them with Facebook ads.

  • And it did this by illicitly harvesting the profiles

  • of 87 million people from Facebook.

  • It took an entire year's work to get Christopher on the record.

  • And I had to turn myself from a feature writer

  • into an investigative reporter to do it.

  • And he was extraordinarily brave,

  • because the company is owned by Robert Mercer,

  • the billionaire who bankrolled Trump,

  • and he threatened to sue us multiple times,

  • to stop us from publishing.

  • But we finally got there, and we were one day ahead of publication.

  • We got another legal threat.

  • Not from Cambridge Analytica this time,

  • but from Facebook.

  • It told us that if we publish, they would sue us.

  • We did it anyway.

  • (Applause)

  • Facebook, you were on the wrong side of history in that.

  • And you were on the wrong side of history in this --

  • in refusing to give us the answers that we need.

  • And that is why I am here.

  • To address you directly, the gods of Silicon Valley.

  • (Applause)

  • Mark Zuckerberg ...

  • (Applause)

  • and Sheryl Sandberg and Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Jack Dorsey,

  • and your employees and your investors, too.

  • Because 100 years ago,

  • the biggest danger in the South Wales coal mines was gas.

  • Silent and deadly and invisible.

  • It's why they sent the canaries down first to check the air.

  • And in this massive, global, online experiment that we are all living through,

  • we in Britain are the canary.

  • We are what happens to a western democracy

  • when a hundred years of electoral laws are disrupted by technology.

  • Our democracy is broken, our laws don't work anymore,

  • and it's not me saying this,

  • it's our parliament published a report saying this.

  • This technology that you have invented has been amazing.

  • But now, it's a crime scene.

  • And you have the evidence.

  • And it is not enough to say that you will do better in the future.

  • Because to have any hope of stopping this from happening again,

  • we have to know the truth.

  • And maybe you think, "Well, it was just a few ads.

  • And people are smarter than that, right?"

  • To which I would say, "Good luck with that."

  • Because what the Brexit vote demonstrates

  • is that liberal democracy is broken.

  • And you broke it.

  • This is not democracy --

  • spreading lies in darkness, paid for with illegal cash,

  • from God knows where.

  • It's subversion,

  • and you are accessories to it.

  • (Applause)

  • Our parliament has been the first in the world

  • to try to hold you to account,

  • and it's failed.

  • You are literally beyond the reach of British law -- not just British laws,

  • this is nine parliaments, nine countries are represented here,

  • who Mark Zuckerberg refused to come and give evidence to.

  • And what you don't seem to understand is that this is bigger than you.

  • And it's bigger than any of us.

  • And it is not about left or right or "Leave" or "Remain" or Trump or not.

  • It's about whether it's actually possible

  • to have a free and fair election ever again.

  • Because as it stands, I don't think it is.

  • And so my question to you is, is this what you want?

  • Is this how you want history to remember you:

  • as the handmaidens to authoritarianism

  • that is on the rise all across the world?

  • Because you set out to connect people.

  • And you are refusing to acknowledge

  • that the same technology is now driving us apart.

  • And my question to everybody else is,

  • is this what we want:

  • to let them get away with it,

  • and to sit back and play with our phones, as this darkness falls?

  • The history of the South Wales Valleys is of a fight for rights.

  • And this is not a drill -- it's a point of inflection.