Executives at Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that worked on digital ads for President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign, were caught on camera suggesting that the firm could use sex workers, bribes, ex-spies and fake news to help candidates win votes around the world, a new investigation has revealed.
Cambridge Analytica, however, has claimed that the reporters tricked the company, and that it never had any intention of carrying out the scenarios discussed.
Britain's Channel 4 News carried out an undercover sting of the company and caught top executives suggesting the tactics.
The news channel's reporter posed as a representative of a wealthy Sri Lankan family looking to gain political standing. While executives initially denied they used "entrapment", after several meetings with the reporter, they put forward some tactics they could use.
One suggestion was to create the scenario of a sex scandal to discredit opponents.
"Send some girls around to the candidate's house, we have lots of history of things," CEO Alexander Nix said. "We could bring some Ukrainians in on holiday with us, you know what I'm saying."
The reporter asked about how the company could help dig dirt on political opponents. Mark Turnbull, the managing director of Cambridge Analytica Political Global, said the company knows ex-spies who used to work for British intelligence agency MI5 and MI6.
Nix suggested that sometimes, the company could go to an incumbent and offer them a deal "that's too good to be true" and then record that and release a video.
"Deep digging is interesting, but you know equally effective can be just to go and speak to the incumbents and to offer them a deal that's too good to be true and make sure that that's video recorded....You know these sort of tactics are very effective, instantly having video evidence of corruption."
One scenario described by Nix is employing someone to come in as a wealthy developer and offer a candidate a large amount of money in exchange for land. The whole exchange would be posted online, Nix said.
The Cambridge Analytica CEO suggested that these are hypothetical scenarios, but did say that some of these tactics had been employed in the past.
"Please don't pay too much attention to what I'm saying, because I'm just giving you examples of what can be done, what has been done," Nix told the undercover reporter.
Cambridge Analytica denied that it used the tactics laid out in the Channel 4 report.
"We entirely refute any allegation that Cambridge Analytica or any of its affiliates use entrapment, bribes or so-called 'honey-traps' for any purpose whatsoever," the company said in a statement.
It also claimed that a Cambridge Analytica executive told the undercover reporters, "We're not in the business of fake news, we're not in the business of lying, making stuff up, and we're not in the business of entrapment… There are companies that do this but to me that crosses a line."
The execs did not meet with the undercover reporters after this session, the company says. Its full statement is below.