Stephen Colbert ripped Cambridge Analytica, a data company that has been linked to President Trump's 2016 election campaign, on Monday. The firm is accused of stealing Facebook information from over 50 million users without their permission.
More distressing, Colbert noted, was that Facebook knew about the breach but failed to make the information public.
"Really?" he said sarcastically. "The one time I actually wanted a Facebook alert [I didn't get one]? Perhaps that could have replaced the four messages I get a day about my ex-roommate's college girlfriend's one-woman show. I'm a maybe, Sarah! That means no!"
Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data to create models that would allow the company to influence voter preferences and impact election outcomes – or so they told their clients. The company denied swaying voters over the weekend on Twitter, writing, "advertising is not coercive; people are smarter than that."
"Yes, advertising isn't meant to coerce people," Colbert joked. "It's just a free public service to distribute short films about amphibians who enjoy car insurance."
There is also evidence that Cambridge Analytica told prospective clients that it could entrap politicians – trick them into accepting bribes, for example, and then secretly video the transaction for blackmailing purposes. The company recently became a victim of their own methods: A reporter in England posed as a potential client and obtained secret video of Cambridge Analytica executives discussing entrapment techniques.
Colbert was delighted by the irony in this. "Smile!" he said. "You're on Candid Corruption."