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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

The future of propaganda is on the line in election probe

Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix speaks during

Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix speaks during the annual Concordia Summit at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manhattan on Sept. 19, 2016. Credit: Getty Images / Bryan Bedder

A spotlight shines anew on Cambridge Analytica, the company part-owned by the billionaire Mercers of Long Island that has been deeply involved in analyzing and mining people’s data to influence election campaigns.

Last week the company acknowledged it “has been asked by the House Intelligence Committee to provide it with information that might help” in the probe of Russian-made messaging and misinformation in the 2016 election here.

“CA is not under investigation, and there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the company,” the company was quoted as saying by Politico and the Daily Beast.

Investigators for both Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller have plenty of other of parties to query about electronic communications — among them Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The explosion of social media fuels unprecedented questions about what information is fair for governments and political operatives to use and for what purpose.

There will be salient debates over whether certain messages should be controlled or blocked, whether certain data should be preserved or destroyed, and whether people are entitled to the traditional concept of privacy online.

Much of the electronic web around the 2016 election has yet to be unraveled. Government agencies have concluded that Russian entities hacked the Democratic Party’s emails, but details have been elusive, at least for the public at large.

Did hundreds of thousands of dollars in targeted ads purchased by presumed propagandists really bring results? Political campaigns misled voters in the age of TV and print, so are lies to be somehow proscribed? Wouldn’t that be censorship?

Probers need to weed through all the so-called bots, fake accounts, fake ads and shadow operatives that seem to have broken to Trump’s advantage in the race — but which potentially could work for anyone.

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