5 key takeaways from the Reflections of a Whistleblower fireside discussion with Christopher Wylie and Eric Schurenburg

CyberTech, Dublin Tech Summit, Technology | Thu 28 Jul | Author – Business & Finance
Pictured from l-r: Eric Schurenberg, the former CEO of Mansueto Ventures, and Christopher Wylie, the  whisteblower associated with Cambridge Analytica.

The five key areas of discussion were:

  1. Military contracting
  2. Steve Bannon
  3. Facebook
  4. Bigotry
  5. Democracy

One of the flagship speeches at the Dublin Tech Summit took place on Wednesday, 15th June at 12:40pm GMT +1and was centred on the theme of ‘Fireside: Reflections of a Whisteblower.

The event comprised of a fireside discussion between Eric Schurenberg, the former CEO of Mansueto Ventures, and Christopher Wylie, the  whisteblower associated with Cambridge Analytica.

If you missed this fireside discussion, you can watch it here.

1. Military contracting

Wylie spoke about the types of people he met in military contracting. “You meet a lot of weird characters in military contracting,” he said, referring to the different types of unique and quirky people who he did business with. Among them were Steve Bannon, who fit Wylie’s description to a tee. “He’s a very intelligent man”, Wylie admitted before adding “He’s batshit crazy, but he’s very intelligent”.

2. Steve Bannon

Wylie also warned of the dangers a man like Steve Bannon posed. Wylie admitted he actually found Bannon rather likeable and personable in their interactions, while reminding the audience of his ulterior motives. Bannon’s knew that “if you want to radicalise a country, you’ve got to isolate that country”, and set about doing that by stirring up culture war issues to radicalise people, most notably young men.

3. Facebook

Wylie was critical of Facebook, along with CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Reflecting on it’s role in the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump, Wylie claimed that “Facebook knew all about it” and deliberately shared its users data anyways. When asked if Mark Zuckerberg could ever face consequences for his actions, he stated that “unless Mark Zuckerberg knows he could be taken to an American court where he lives, he’s not going to do anything”. Eric Shurenberg noted that Wylie has faced more consequences for his whistleblowing than Zuckerberg has for his role in the Facebook data scandal, noting how it’s unfair.

4. Bigotry

Wylie also warned about the internet’s role in emboldening racism. “Racism is alive and well everywhere and the internet just makes it worse”, he said. Anonymous accounts and a lack of accountability help to allow more hateful materials to be disseminated. “Colonialism never died, it just moved onto the internet”, he warned, referencing the superiority that users in certain countries still feel.

5. Democracy

Wylie ended the discussion on a dark note, warning how proper safeguards have not been put in place to stop something like the misinformation of Brexit or the Trump campaign from happening again. “What happens when you move fast and break things but what you’re breaking is democracy?” Wylie expressed disbelief that after the Leave campaign were proven to have broken the law and cheated, the UK pressed ahead with Brexit anyway. Wylie noted that if it’s discovered you cheated on a test, you’re kicked out of college but when you cheat in an election there are seemingly little consequences.