Carole Cadwalladr

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Carole Cadwalladr
Cadwalladr in 2019
Cadwalladr in 2019
BornCarole Jane Cadwalladr
1969 (age 53–54)
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 for her role in exposing the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal for which she was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, alongside The New York Times reporters.[2]

Early life[edit]

Cadwalladr was born in Taunton, Somerset,[3][better source needed] and raised in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.[4] She was educated at Radyr Comprehensive School, Cardiff,[5] and Hertford College, Oxford.[6]


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.[7] 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.[8]

Starting in late 2016 The Observer published an extensive series of articles by Cadwalladr about what she called the "right-wing fake news ecosystem".[9]

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in the United States.[9] With regard to the Trump presidential campaign allegation, although the full report remains unpublished, the Mueller investigation reported that it had not found evidence that the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russian influence on the 2016 presidential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.[10]

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".[11] 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'.[12] TED's curator Chris Anderson invited Mark Zuckerberg to come and give his response, an offer he declined. Anderson later listed the talk as one of the best ones of 2019.[13] According to Cadwalladr, the founders of Facebook and Google were sponsoring the conference and the co-founder of Twitter was speaking at it."[14] 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.[15][16] Some of the "tech giants" criticised complained about "factual inaccuracies", but when invited to specify them did not respond.[14][16]

Banks v Cadwalladr libel case [edit]

Arron Banks initiated a libel action against Cadwalladr on 12 July 2019, which in May 2023 concluded with the Court of Appeal ruling that she had unlawfully published a serious imputation (which she accepted was not true); the judge declared that its continued publication by TED was not subject to a public interest defence and had caused Banks serious harm: the court held her liable for £35,000 in damages and over £1 million in costs.[17]

Banks had objected to her claim, notably in her TED talk,[18] that he had lied about "his relationship with the Russian government".[19] 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".[20] The judge had earlier cautioned that "broadcasts and public speeches should not be interpreted as though they were formal written texts",[21] and "emphasised that the ordinary reader or listener would not minutely analyse possible interpretations of words like a libel lawyer".[20]

Banks initially lost the case on 13 June 2022 despite the court finding that Cadwalladr's comments were defamatory. In a High Court ruling, his case was dismissed: the judge concluding that Cadwalladr had a reasonable belief that her comments were in the public interest.[22] Press freedom groups had expressed alarm at the lawsuit,[23] describing the case as a SLAPP suit “intended to silence Cadwalladr's courageous investigative journalism”, [23] however the judge said that it was neither fair nor apt to describe it as such, because Cadwalladr had “no defence of truth”, and her defence of public interest had “succeeded only in part”.[24] On 24 June 2022 the High Court granted Banks leave to appeal on a question of law relating to the "serious harm" test.[25]

In February 2023 the Court of Appeal rejected two of Banks’ challenges, but ruled in his favour that continuing publication of the April 2019 TED Talk, after the Electoral Commission published a report on 29 April 2020 that found no evidence of Banks breaking the law in relation to campaign donations, had caused "serious harm" to Banks' reputation. The Court ordered that damages should be assessed for the harm incurred between 29 April 2020 and the date of the High Court ruling in June 2022. [26][27]

On 28 April 2023, Cadwalladr was ordered by the court to pay Banks £35,000 in damages by 12 May 2023.[17] She was further ordered to pay more than £1m in costs.[28] In May 2023 Cadwalladr unsuccessfully sought permission to appeal to the supreme court against the costs order.[29][30] In November 2023, Cadwalladr’s lawyers announced that they would be taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.[31]


Cadwalladr is a founder of "All the Citizens", a not-for-profit organisation registered as a UK-based private company limited by guarantee.[32] The organisation is made up of journalists, filmmakers, advertising creatives, data scientists, artists, students and lawyers, and intends to crowdfund individual projects and campaigns.[33][needs update]

In 2023 Cadwalladr published an open letter praising Carol Vorderman for speaking out about "corruption and the chancers, embezzlers, spivs and hustlers who've been accused of making millions out of government contracts – and the ministers who've enabled them ... no-one else is doing it" and speaking "as if women had the right to live their lives without having to give a toss about societal expectations".[34]

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. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  2. ^ "The 2019 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in National Reporting". Finalist: Staff of The New York Times, with contributions from Carole Cadwalladr of The Guardian/The Observer of London : For reporting on how Facebook and other tech firms allowed the spread of misinformation and failed to protect consumer privacy, leading to Cambridge Analytica's theft of 50 million people's private information, data that was used to boost Donald Trump's campaign.
  3. ^ "Search Results for England |". Archived from the original on 24 December 2019. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
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  5. ^ Cadwalladr, Carole (24 August 2015). "Whatever the party, our political elite is an Oxbridge club". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 13 February 2019. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
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  8. ^ Cadwalladr, Carole (7 October 2014). "Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales: 'It's true, I'm not a billionaire. So?' – interview". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 18 May 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  9. ^ a b Barnett, Anthony (14 December 2017). "Democracy and the Machinations of Mind Control". New York Review of Books. Archived from the original on 16 December 2017. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  10. ^ Tobitt, Charlotte (20 March 2018). "The Observer fought off legal threats from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica". Press Gazette. Archived from the original on 14 July 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  11. ^ Cadwalladr, Carole (17 April 2019). "Facebook's role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy | TED2019". TED. Archived from the original on 24 December 2020.
  12. ^ Quito, Anne (16 April 2019). "TED offers Mark Zuckerberg a stage to explain himself once and for all". Quartz at Work. Archived from the original on 22 January 2022. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  13. ^ "Curator's Picks: Top 10 TED Talks of 2019 | TED Talks". Archived from the original on 19 January 2021. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  14. ^ a b Cadwalladr, Carole (21 April 2019). "My TED talk: how I took on the tech titans in their lair". The Observer. London. Archived from the original on 9 August 2019. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
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  19. ^ Spectator magazine, 18 May 2023
  20. ^ a b "Arron Banks drops two parts of libel claim against Carole Cadwalladr". The Guardian. London. 23 January 2020. Archived from the original on 31 July 2020. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  21. ^ Pegg, David (12 December 2019). "Judge makes preliminary ruling in Carole Cadwalladr libel case". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 5 September 2021. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  22. ^ Jennings, Daniel (14 June 2022). "Arron Banks loses libel claim – it is in the public interest for defamatory statements about him to be published". Shakespeare Martineau. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  23. ^ a b "Free expression groups call on Arron Banks to drop SLAPP lawsuit against Carole Cadwalladr". Scottish PEN. 13 December 2019. Archived from the original on 27 January 2021. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  24. ^ Siddique, Haroon (13 June 2022). "Libel loss for Arron Banks gives welcome fillip to journalists". Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2022.
  25. ^ Siddique, Haroon (24 June 2022). "Arron Banks allowed to appeal over lost libel action against Carole Cadwalladr". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 June 2022.
  26. ^ Siddique, Haroon (28 February 2023). "Arron Banks loses two of three challenges to failed libel action against Carole Cadwalladr". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  27. ^ Harrison, Sian (28 February 2023). "Arron Banks wins partial victory in appeal over libel claim against journalist". The Independent. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  28. ^ "UK: Allocation of costs in Banks v Cadwalladr sets chilling precedent for public interest journalism". Reporters without borders. 18 May 2023.
  29. ^ Graham-Harrison, Emma (23 May 2023). "23 May 2023 Carole Cadwalladr to appeal against ruling that she pay Arron Banks's legal costs". The Guardian. Guardian. Retrieved 24 May 2023.
  30. ^ Duggan, Joe (9 June 2023). "Carole Cadwalladr loses latest court battle after being told to pay Arron Banks's legal costs". inews.
  31. ^ Townsend, Mark (19 November 2023). "Rights groups back Observer writer Carole Cadwalladr over court costs". The Observer. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  32. ^ Clarke, Laurie (20 October 2021). "Covid-19's rebel scientists: has iSAGE been a success?". British Medical Journal. 375: n2504. doi:10.1136/bmj.n2504. ISSN 1756-1833. S2CID 239028841.
  33. ^ "We are the Citizens". All The Citizens. 21 July 2020. Archived from the original on 22 July 2020. Retrieved 21 July 2020.
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External links[edit]