Skip to comments.Cambridge Analytica Played Roles in Multiple African Elections
Posted on 03/22/2018 9:53:48 PM PDT by UMCRevMom@aol.com
People walk past the building that houses the offices of Cambridge Analytica in central London, March 20, 2018. Share
Long before its controversial roles in the 2016 Brexit vote and U.S. presidential election, Cambridge Analytica influenced elections in Africa.
The data mining company, under fire for its alleged use of 50 million Facebook accounts to shape campaign messages for then-candidate Donald Trump, also played a role in elections in Kenya and Nigeria, according to new reports.
The company's first involvement in Africa dates to the general election in South Africa in 1994. That election marked the end of the apartheid era and the ascent of Nelson Mandela to the presidency.
Widespread violence and deep-seated societal fractures had put the elections in jeopardy, Martin Plaut, a journalist and senior research fellow at the University of London's Institute of Commonwealth Studies, told VOA.
"The 1994 election in South Africa was on an absolute knife's edge. There was no reason to believe that it would go ahead without severe loss of life," Plaut said.
The Inkatha Freedom Party, which represented the Zulu population South Africa's largest ethnic group had not reconciled with the African National Congress (ANC). Amid divisions that were stoked, in part, by the old apartheid regime, hundreds died ahead of the election, Plaut said.
A political party unnamed, but most likely the ANC hired Cambridge Analytica to mitigate election violence, according to the company's website. Their exact role in the election hasn't been independently verified, but the violence subsided during and after the historic vote for Mandela and the ANC.
Involvement in Kenya, Nigeria
More recently, Cambridge Analytica worked with Kenya's ruling Jubilee Party not to build consensus, but rather to exploit divisions to re-elect President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The firm designed a campaign strategy based on interviews with nearly 50,000 potential voters gathered over three months. Their work with the Jubilee Party had been widely suspected but unconfirmed.
But in an undercover video broadcast this week on Britain's Channel 4 News, Cambridge Analytica executive Mark Turnbull boasted that the company and its parent, SCL Group, ran the Kenyatta campaign.
"We have rebranded the entire party twice, written the manifesto, done huge amounts of research, analysis, messaging. Then we'd write all the speeches and stage the whole thing. So, just about every element of his campaign," Turnbull said.
Those elements included social media videos that played to the fears of the electorate, warning that a victory by opposition leader Raila Odinga would lead to disease, famine and terrorism.
Cambridge Analytica denied any involvement with the videos or negative campaigning in Kenya.
VOA reached out to both Cambridge Analytica in Washington and the SCL Group, but they did not respond to requests.
Similar allegations of malfeasance have emerged in Nigeria. The Guardian reported Wednesday that Israeli hackers provided Cambridge Analytica with President Muhammadu Buhari's personal emails.
Buhari was running against incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, and a Nigerian billionaire paid Cambridge Analytica $2.8 million to dig up damaging information about Buhari as part of an attack campaign, The Guardian reported. The emails included information about Buhari's health and medical records, a source told The Guardian.
Since assuming office, Buhari has taken extended medical leaves in London, because of an undisclosed illness.
Data analysis companies such as Cambridge Analytica provide information to governments and political parties, Plaut said, to influence "people in the middle" those with moderate views who can be persuaded to join a side through appeals to emotion.
These companies analyze precisely whom to target and craft messages that play on hopes and fears, not facts, according to Plaut.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp, which Facebook bought in 2014, provide an in-depth view into peoples likes and dislikes from which psychological profiles can be built and exploited to change behavior through tailored messaging.
Julie Owono, executive director of Internet Without Borders, a group that advocates for online freedom and privacy, told VOA's French to Africa service that her organization has been warning about the dangers of letting companies like Facebook collect the personal data of billions of people around the world.
"Since 2010, we've been saying that countries with low-to-nil data protection are testing ground for worst practices by companies and governments," Owono tweeted.
The ANC, South Africa's ruling political party since the end of apartheid, has used similar techniques through its own data mining, according to Plaut. Through billboards along the highways of Johannesburg and fake social media posts, they have invested millions of dollars in messages that advance their agenda, regardless of truth.
'Open to manipulation'
African voters, Plaut said, "are as open to manipulation as any voter in the world." They're a sophisticated electorate, Plaut said, that knows politicians craft and distort messages to suit their needs. But knowledge doesnt inoculate people against the effects of disinformation.
"Everybody is open to manipulation," Plaut said.
In Kenya, political advertisements played to fears surrounding terrorist group Al-Shabab and disease outbreaks. Persuasive messages about safety and health influenced an unknown number of voters, but enough to make an impact, Plaut acknowledged.
The role of data mining in Africa hasn't been confined to elections.
The SCL Group has extensive ties across Africa, with past projects spanning from Libya to Rwanda, and from South Sudan and Somalia all the way to Ghana, according to their website.
SCL says its mission is to be "the premier provider of data analytics and strategy for behavior change." The kinds of behaviors they seek to influence shift, depending on their clients and partners of whom there are many.
In Rwanda, SCL partnered with World Vision, a global Christian aid organization, to conduct research on community attitudes about nutrition and sanitation. In South Sudan, SCL worked with the United Nations Development Group to conduct a survey on the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Program.
SCL partnered with the Ghanaian Ministry of Health, along with a major British construction company, to research the country's attitudes toward the health care system.
In Somalia, SCL researched the tenability of the nationwide Somtelcom telephone network. The group also interviewed nearly 3,000 Libyans to develop policy recommendations to help the government address instability countrywide.
VOA reached out to John Apea, who is listed on SCL's website as its special adviser for SCL Ghana. Apea said he no longer works with SCL and would not provide additional information about the offices operations in the country.
People wait to receive food at a World Vision food distribution site in Malualkuel in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal region of South Sudan, April 5, 2017.
The growth of digital media across Africa will present new opportunities to engage in sophisticated campaigns to influence not just voters but also policymakers and governments.
The solution, according to Plaut, is international oversight.
"The African Union should be much more robust in insisting on its observers going to see elections and spending a good deal of time there, not just five minutes before the vote takes place," Plaut said.
In-depth reports filed months in advance of elections will give the public the tools they need to combat propaganda with a transparent account of their governments' efforts to ensure a free and fair process.
Plaut anticipates closer scrutiny of the democratic process will lead to pushback and complaints of interference. Nonetheless, the efforts are worth it, he said.
"The African Union, as the guardian of democracy in the continent, has a duty to go out there and really push for democracy throughout the continent," Plaut said.
The company's first involvement in Africa dates to the general election in South Africa in 1994. That election marked the end of the apartheid era and the ascent of Nelson Mandela to the presidency... More recently, Cambridge Analytica worked with Kenya's ruling Jubilee Party... to re-elect President Uhuru Kenyatta... warning that a victory by opposition leader Raila Odinga would lead to disease, famine and terrorism [which was and is correct] ...in Nigeria... Muhammadu Buhari... was running against incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, and a Nigerian billionaire paid Cambridge Analytica $2.8 million to dig up damaging information... The emails included information about Buhari's health and medical records... Since assuming office, Buhari has taken extended medical leaves in London, because of an undisclosed illness... In Rwanda, SCL partnered with World Vision, a global Christian [sic -- supports same-sex marriage, supports PFLP, Hamas] aid organization, to conduct research on community attitudes about nutrition and sanitation...
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This article is so full of BS, I don’t even know where to start.
1. Saying that CA was active as a company in 1994? Dec 2014 was the point where they formed and existed as CA.
2. Involved in 1994 in the South African election? There was marginal internet existing in the region in 1994. No social media existed. In all of South Africa at the time, I would take a guess that no more than 3,000 people had actual email accounts.
3. To suggest they were involved in Kenyan elections? Pure speculation....zero facts.
4. “Open to manipulation”. The minute you bring up any African election or country....the word manipulation is the theme that drives the entire election. All parties are prone to manipulation
I could continue on, but I think this was more of a fictional piece created to fit into the news. The fact that VoA carries it? It would lead me to wonder who is the manipulator here.
As I’m digging into this, I see the founder of SCL Group, Nigel Oakes, also created another group with a similar mission that had a U.S. Army psyops specialist as one of their members—interesting.
Voice of America is generally seen as being CIA, so that explains why they’d be writing about Cambridge Analytica and not Hakluyt & Co:
18 Mar: Lifezette: Meet Hillary Clintons Other, Much More Powerful and Shadowy Oppo Research Firm
Executives with London-based Hakluyt & Co. contributed thousands of dollars to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign
by Mark Tapscott
Meet London-based Hakluyt & Co., founded by three former British intelligence operatives in 1995 to provide the kind of otherwise inaccessible research for which select governments and Fortune 500 corporations pay huge sums...
The firms style appears to be much more in the mold of the Christopher Steele dossier. Clients pay for pages of well-sourced prose from Hakluyts contacts across the globe, Williams wrote...
When the drunken junior Trump foreign policy adviser George Papodopoulous boasted in a London bar in May 2016 about Russian intelligence operatives peddling hacked emails that were damaging to Clinton, his most interested listener, according to The New York Times, was Alexander Downer, Australian high commissioner to the U.K...
Downer, a long-time Aussie chum of Bill and Hillary Clinton, had been on Hakluyts advisory board since 2008. Officially, he had to resign his Hakluyt role in 2014, but his informal connections continued uninterrupted, the News Corp. Australian Network reported in a January 2016 exclusive...
The link between Clinton and Hakluyt is ironic considering the former secretary of states strong commitment to liberal Democratic environmental causes. Hakluyts record includes being caught planting spies in Greenpeace and other environmental groups on behalf of energy giants British Petroleum (BP) and Shell.
22 Mar: Variety: Steve Bannon Defends Fire and Fury, Slams CNN and Facebook, Deflects Cambridge Analytica Questions
By Cynthia Littleton
Speaking at the Financial Times Future of News conference in New York, Bannon careened through a range of topics in a combative interview with Financial Times editor Lionel Barber. Bannon also vigorously defended President Donald Trumps track record, calling him the greatest orator weve had since William Jennings Bryant....
Theres a marketplace for your data its being sold every day, he said. He would not comment on his thoughts about Cambridge Analytia CEO Alexander Nix, and asserted that the issues in the spotlight at present were rooted in the activity of a related firm, SCL, based in Britain and run by Brits.
He said the focus on Cambridge Analytica and its work with the Trump campaign stems from the unwillingness of the political establishment to acknowledge that Trump won the election.
The progressive left and opposition media cannot get over one basic fact: Donald J. Trump is President. He beat Hillary (Clinton) and he beat her badly. Bannon asserted that investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion among Trump campaign officials is a bid to delegitimize Trumps win. You struck out on Russia so now youve got to go to Cambridge Analytica, he said...
Earlier in the day, CNN Worldwide chief Jeff Zucker spoke at the conference and slammed Fox News for being too cozy with the Trump administration, calling it a pure propaganda machine.
Bannon responded: You cant name a more propaganda outfit than CNN. Did anybody at CNN get fired for the awful mess they made of the 2016 campaign, which was a disgrace to journalism? No. That is a propaganda outfit. Every night its hate Trump.
Cambridges parent company, the London-based Strategic Communication Laboratories Group, has a long record of trying to understand and influence behavior. Founded in 1993 by a former British adman, the firm has worked for companies and candidates around the world, as well as for government and military clients. SCL has studied Pakistani jihadists for the British government and provided intelligence assessments for American defense contractors in Iran, Libya and Syria, according to company documents obtained by The New York Times.
Several things I'm seeing make me think there's an Arab Spring Obama administration connection here--this was going on way before Trump's campaign got involved.
It’s really incredible the number of Facebook users that act like they never had a clue that by posting facts of their personal lives on the Internet was posting a permanent, intimate personal data base along with likes and dislikes to the world. It is just amazing how stupid people are. Even if they “restricted” the information to personal friends, once information is shared and digitized, it is as good as posting it on a fifty foot flashing neon sign in Times Square.
I remember, back in the day, someone meddled in the Kenya election.
He was not part of Cambridge Analytical.
In fact, he was a Senator!
A postcard is a more secure method of communication versus fakebook
Is Cambridge Analytica connected in any way to ‘intelligence’ groups?
Wonder why the article says it is unknown which party in S Africa Cambridge Analytica worked with but then claims ANC was the “most likely party?”
If it’s unknown why guess or why not ask?
Apparently it’s talking about the parent company.
Yeah, necklacing makes it unlikely that their objective in hiring the company was to reduce election violence...
Unless the company was actually hired to “remake” ANC’s violent image - in order to meet the needs of foreign interests.
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