Data firm ‘helped Trump win’

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

LON­DON: A pro­pa­ganda ex­pert who has stud­ied Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica says the com­pany helped Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign use false state­ments and an­tiMus­lim mes­sages to spread fear and re­sent­ment in swing states he needed to win.

Uni­ver­sity of Es­sex lec­turer Emma Bri­ant made the com­ments in ex­plana­tory es­says sub­mit­ted to the me­dia com­mit­tee of the UK Par­lia­ment as part of its in­quiry into fake news. She has stud­ied SCL Group, the con­glom­er­ate that in­cludes Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica, for a decade.

Ms Bri­ant, who in­ter­viewed the group’s em­ploy­ees for her aca­demic re­search, sub­mit­ted record­ings of those dis­cus­sions as well as the es­says to the UK Elec­toral Com­mis­sion, the In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice and the com­mit­tee. Her in­tent was to dis­cuss “Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica’s grossly un­eth­i­cal con­duct en­acted for profit”, ac­cord­ing to ev­i­dence re­leased on Mon­day.

“Us­ing [Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica’s] me­dia strat­egy, Trump’s false racist and Is­lam­o­pho­bic com­ments, re­sent­ment and fear were de­ployed where they would be most ef­fec­tive — mo­bil­is­ing swing state au­di­ences, us­ing vot­ers’ per­sonal data to mon­i­tor them, and us­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing to ma­nip­u­late their emo­tional re­sponses en masse,” Ms Bri­ant wrote.

She per­suaded key play­ers, in­clud­ing SCL Group founder Nigel Oakes and Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica’s for­mer busi­ness de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor, Brit­tany Kaiser, to speak can­didly with her for a book she is writ­ing with Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor Robert Ent­man. Her ev­i­dence was re­leased a day be­fore Ms Kaiser is sched­uled to tes­tify to the com­mit­tee.

Her anal­y­sis fol­lows the tes­ti­mony of Christo­pher Wylie, the cen­tral fig­ure in al­le­ga­tions that Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica im­prop­erly har­vested in­for­ma­tion from up to 87 mil­lion Face­book ac­counts to help Mr Trump win the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

But Ms Bri­ant said that it was what the com­pany did with in­for­ma­tion that made it pow­er­ful.

“Fetishis­ing their spe­cific tech­nol­ogy will only pro­mote its power,” Ms Bri­ant wrote. “The point is how they abused data (and peo­ple) for profit, the po­lit­i­cal im­pact of their cam­paign, and the im­pli­ca­tions of rapid de­vel­op­ment in this area for the fu­ture for all our democ­ra­cies.”

Mr Wylie has also al­leged that the con­glom­er­ate had links to the suc­cess­ful cam­paign for Britain to leave the Euro­pean Union. While the com­pany didn’t work for the of­fi­cial cam­paign group, known as Vote Leave, it did work for a group called Leave. EU in the pre­lim­i­nary stages of the de­bate, Ms Bri­ant said. This work pro­vided Leave. EU with the “back­bone” of its strat­egy.

“Leave.EU sought to cre­ate an im­pres­sion of ‘democ­racy’ and a cam­paign chan­nel­ing pub­lic will, while cre­at­ing de­lib­er­ately ‘provoca­tive’ com­mu­ni­ca­tions to sub­vert it and win by chan­nel­ing hate­ful pro­pa­ganda,” Ms Bri­ant wrote.

Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to an email seek­ing com­ment on the sub­mis­sion. How­ever, it has de­nied it used the data scraped from an app that ob­tained ma­te­rial from Face­book users in the Trump cam­paign. It also de­nies work­ing on the Brexit ref­er­en­dum.

“We pitched, Vote. leave and Re­main but did no work paid or un­paid for any of these en­ti­ties,” Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica said in an April 9 state­ment.

In a state­ment re­leased with Ms Bri­ant’s re­search, com­mit­tee chair­man Damian Collins said her work of­fered “unique in­sight into the pri­vate thoughts of key peo­ple at Leave.EU and SCL”.

He sin­gled out com­ments by Mr Oakes of SCL Group and Andy Wig­more, the

for­mer di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Leave.EU, which drew par­al­lels be­tween their tech­niques and those de­ployed by Nazi Ger­many.


Face­book Elec­tions signs stand in the me­dia area in Cleve­land be­fore the first Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial de­bate, in this file photo. The head of Trump-af­fil­i­ated data-min­ing firm Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica was sus­pended on March 20 while the gov­ern­ment bears...

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