Carole Cadwalladr

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Carole Cadwalladr
Cadwalladr in 2019
Cadwalladr in 2019
BornCarole Jane Cadwalladr
Taunton, Somerset, England
EducationRadyr Comprehensive School
Alma materHertford College, Oxford

Carole Jane Cadwalladr (/kædˈwɒlədər/; born 1969) is a British author, investigative journalist and features writer. She is a features writer for The Observer and formerly worked at The Daily Telegraph.[1] Cadwalladr rose to international prominence in 2018 when she exposed the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

Cadwalladr was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, alongside The New York Times reporters, for her coverage of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Early life[edit]

Cadwalladr was born in Taunton, Somerset,[2] and educated at Radyr Comprehensive School, Cardiff,[3] and Hertford College, Oxford.[4]


Cadwalladr's first novel, The Family Tree, was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the Author's Club First Novel Award, the Waverton Good Read Award, and the Wales Book of the Year. It was also dramatised as a five-part serial on BBC Radio 4.[5] In the US, it was a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice. The Family Tree was translated into several languages including Spanish, Italian, German, Czech, and Portuguese.

As a journalist, her work in the second decade of the 21st century has been about issues related to technology. She has for example, interviewed Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia.[6]

Starting in late 2016 The Observer published an extensive series of articles by Cadwalladr about what she called the "right-wing fake news ecosystem".[7]

Anthony Barnett wrote in the blog of The New York Review of Books about Cadwalladr's articles in The Observer, which have reported malpractice by campaigners for Brexit, and the illicit funding of Vote Leave, in the 2016 EU membership referendum. She has also reported on alleged links between Nigel Farage, the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump, and the Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election that has been investigated in the United States.[7] With regard to the Trump presidential campaign allegation, although the full report remains unpublished, the Mueller investigation reported that it had not found evidence that the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election. Before Cambridge Analytica closed operations in 2018, the company took legal action against The Observer for the claims made in Cadwalladr's articles.[8]

In April 2019, Cadwalladr gave a 15-minute TED talk about the links between Facebook and Brexit, entitled "Facebook's role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy".[9] It was one of the opening talks of TED's 2019 conference and Cadwalladr called out the 'Gods of Silicon Valley – Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Sergey Brin, Larry Page & Jack Dorsey' by name. She accused Facebook of breaking democracy, a moment described as a 'truth bomb' [10] TED's curator Chris Anderson invited Mark Zuckerberg to come and give his response, an offer he declined. He later listed the talk as one of the best ones of 2019.[11] According to Cadwalladr, the founders of Facebook and Google were sponsoring the conference and the co-founder of Twitter was speaking at it."[12] She summarised her speech in an article in The Observer: "as things stood, I didn’t think it was possible to have free and fair elections ever again. That liberal democracy was broken. And they had broken it." The speech was applauded.[13][14] Some of the "tech giants" criticised complained about "factual inaccuracies", but when invited to specify them did not respond.[15][14]

Libel action[edit]

Arron Banks initiated a libel action against Cadwalladr on 12 July 2019 for claiming that he had lied about 'his relationship with the Russian government', notably in her TED talk.[16]

Seven press freedom groups joined forces to express their alarm at the lawsuit calling for it to be dropped and calling on the British government to defend public-interest journalism. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), ARTICLE 19, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), Greenpeace UK, Index on Censorship, PEN International and Scottish PEN described the suit as 'vexatious in nature and intended to silence Cadwalladr’s courageous investigative journalism. We call on Banks to drop this abusive lawsuit and cease efforts to stifle public interest reporting.'[17] The letter described the case a so-called SLAPP suit – Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation. The organisations commented on the unusual step of suing Cadwalladr as an individual journalist but not the Guardian or TED. 'We note with concern the abusive approach Banks has taken in targeting Cadwalladr as an individual on the basis of comments she made orally – including a single sentence in a TED talk – and on Twitter, rather than similar reporting that had been published in The Guardian.'[17]

In January 2020 Banks dropped two elements of his action.[18] According to The Guardian, "Banks’s lawyers argued this meant there were strong grounds to believe he would assist the interests of the Russian government, against those of the British government, in exchange for that money". Cadwalladr's lawyers had argued this meant there were reasonable grounds to investigate. However, the judge concluded that, in context, the Ted Talk and the related tweet meant that "On more than one occasion Mr Banks told untruths about a secret relationship he had with the Russian government in relation to acceptance of foreign funding of electoral campaigns in breach of the law on such funding".[18] The judge had earlier cautioned that "broadcasts and public speeches should not be interpreted as though they were formal written texts",[19] and "emphasised that the ordinary reader or listener would not minutely analyse possible interpretations of words like a libel lawyer".[18]

On 6 November 2020 while the libel case continued, Cadwalladr deleted and apologised for a recent tweet in which she claimed that Banks had broken the law.[20] The Electoral Commission ruled that Leave.EU, the campaign that Arron Banks founded and funded, broke UK electoral law.[21] In addition, the ICO found Leave.EU had broken data laws but Arron Banks was not held personally responsible.[22]

On 26 November 2020, the day before a strike-out hearing, the Press Gazette reported that she "has been ordered to pay £62,000 in costs to Banks after withdrawing her defences of truth and limitation just one day before the next hearing in the case was scheduled to take place on Thursday morning", in the light of the judge's determination of the meaning of certain words.[23] In a statement published on its website, her solicitors noted that "contrary to some reporting, Carole has not made any admissions and stands by her public interest reporting. She will continue to defend the claim and we anticipate that the case will be heard at trial next year".[24]


Cadwalladr is a member of All the Citizens, a not-for-profit organisation registered as a UK-based limited company. The organisation is made up of journalists, filmmakers, advertising creatives, data scientists, artists, students and lawyers, and intends to crowdfund individual projects and campaigns.[25]

Journalism awards[edit]


  • Cadwalladr, Carole (1996). Lebanon (Travellers Survival Kit). Vacation Work. ISBN 1854581473.
  • Cadwalladr, Carole (2005). The Family Tree: A Novel. Penguin. ISBN 9781440649516.


  1. ^ "Carole Cadwalladr". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Search Results for England |".
  3. ^ Cadwalladr, Carole (24 August 2015). "Whatever the party, our political elite is an Oxbridge club". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Hertford, Hugh, and Press Freedom". Hertford, College, Oxford University. 28 November 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  5. ^ BookBrowse. "Carole Cadwalladr author biography".
  6. ^ Cadwalladr, Carole (7 October 2014). "Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales: 'It's true, I'm not a billionaire. So?' – interview". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  7. ^ a b Barnett, Anthony (14 December 2017). "Democracy and the Machinations of Mind Control". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  8. ^ Tobitt, Charlotte (20 March 2018). "The Observer fought off legal threats from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica". Press Gazette.
  9. ^ Cadwalladr, Carole (17 April 2019). "Facebook's role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy | TED2019". TED.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Carole Cadwalladr (21 April 2019). "My TED talk: how I took on the tech titans in their lair". The Observer.
  13. ^ Tanner, John C. (26 April 2019). "Facebook gets called out at TED for breaking democracy". Disruptive.Asia. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  14. ^ a b "The Web's Dark Chapter Unveiled At TED 2019". Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  15. ^ Cadwalladr, Carole (21 April 2019). "My TED talk: how I took on the tech titans in their lair | Carole Cadwalladr". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  16. ^ "Carole Cadwalladr threatens to counter-sue Arron Banks after libel claim". Press Gazette. 15 July 2019.
  17. ^ a b "Free expression groups call on Arron Banks to drop SLAPP lawsuit against Carole Cadwalladr". Scottish PEN. 13 December 2019.
  18. ^ a b c "Arron Banks drops two parts of libel claim against Carole Cadwalladr -". The Guardian. 23 January 2020.
  19. ^ Pegg, David (12 December 2019). "Judge makes preliminary ruling in Carole Cadwalladr libel case". The Guardian.
  20. ^ Mayhew, Freddy (6 November 2020). "Observer's Carole Cadwalladr apologises for false claim against Arron Banks in now deleted tweet". Press Gazette. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  21. ^ "Brexit: Vote Leave broke electoral law, says Electoral Commission". 17 July 2018 – via
  22. ^ "Leave. EU and Arron Banks insurance firm fined £120,000 for data breaches". The Guardian. 1 February 2019.
  23. ^ "Carole Cadwalladr drops truth defence in Arron Banks libel battle but insists claims were in public interest". Press Gazette. 26 November 2020. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  24. ^ "Statement on libel claim against Carole Cadwalladr". Bindmans LLP. 26 November 2020.
  25. ^ "All The Citizens: About". 21 July 2020.
  26. ^ Slawson, Nicola (12 December 2017). "Guardian and Observer scoop three prizes in British Journalism Awards". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  27. ^ Mayhew, Freddy (11 December 2017). "British Journalism Awards 2017: Nick Ferrari is journalist of the year, Inside Housing named top news provider". Press Gazette. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  28. ^ Greenfield, Patrick (14 March 2018). "Guardian and Observer journalists win nine awards at Press Awards" – via
  29. ^ Orwell Foundation (25 June 2018). "Orwell Prize 2018: The Orwell Prize for Journalism". The Orwell Foundation. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  30. ^ "The Observer's Carole Cadwalladr wins Reporters Without Borders' 'L'esprit de RSF' award | Reporters without borders". RSF (in French). Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  31. ^ Sullivan, Eileen (19 February 2019). "New York Times Wins Two George Polk Awards" – via
  32. ^ "The annual Stieg Larsson prize". 1 March 2013.
  33. ^ Rawlinson (November 2018). "Amelia Gentleman and Carole Cadwalladr win joint journalist of the year award". Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  34. ^ Twitter, Charlotte Tobitt (11 December 2018). "Observer's Carole Cadwalladr: Award wins are 'important piece of armour' against critics who attack me and my reporting".
  35. ^ Guardian Staff (3 April 2019). "National Press Awards: Guardian and Observer win for Windrush and Cambridge Analytica" – via
  36. ^ "Times Wins Three Loeb Awards". The New York Times Company. 1 July 2019.
  37. ^ Trounson, Rebecca (28 June 2019). "UCLA Anderson School of Management Announces 2019 Gerald Loeb Award Winners". PR Newswire (Press release). UCLA Anderson School of Management. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  38. ^ "Medals – Hay Festival". Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  39. ^ "The 2019 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in National Reporting". The Pulitzer. Retrieved 26 May 2019.

External links[edit]