Cambridge Analytica and Brexit
You may have heard the name Cambridge Analytica recently.
They are the company that has just been accused of taking advantage of the data of millions of Facebook users. They used this information to target people with bespoke emotional propaganda in order to influence political decision making. Yet, they don’t try to win arguments on key political issues. Instead, they use psychological operations designed to manipulate the type of person your online data says you are. They know that emotion changes behaviour more than intellect and they know how to push your buttons. The Facebook data means they know more about you than you know about yourself.
We know they used their expertise to help the campaign of Donald Trump. We also know, due to undercover filming by Channel Four, that they act in morally dubious ways.
What we don’t know is. Did their methods have any influence on the Brexit vote?
There has been a lot of speculation as to Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the unofficial leave campaign.
However, the head of that campaign, Arron Banks, has just denied that Leave.EU ever used the company.
Which is weird because key figures in both Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica have previously said the opposite.
In Oct 2015, the same Arron Banks announced to the world that they had hired Cambridge Anlytica. In November of the same year, the Leave.EU website said that the company:
will be helping us map the British electorate and what they believe in, enabling us to better engage with voters.
That same month Cambridge Analytica director Brittany Kaiser spoke at a Leave.EU news conference saying they would be:
running large-scale research of the nation to really understand why people are interested in staying in or out of the EU
In February 2016, the head of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix(featured in the video above) wrote the following in this article in Campaign Magazine. In the article he says:
We have already helped supercharge Leave.EU’s social media campaign by ensuring the right messages are getting to the right voters online
In April 2017, Leave.EU’s campaign manager tweeted that:
You should use Cambridge Analytics – we did apparently can highly recommend them.
Strange that both companies now deny ever having had worked together.
Possibly the solution to this conundrum is that Cambridge Analytica worked with Leave.EU unofficially.
In the video above, Alexander Nix talks about how Cambridge Analytica uses proxy companies in order to remain in the shadows.
We know for a fact that most of the Leave.EU budget went to an obscure Canadian company called AggregateIQ. So too did the anonymously donated, dodgy money that was funnelled through the DUP in order to subvert election rules. However, we also know that there are connections between AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica. These connections were discovered in this very thorough article by Carole Cadwalladr in the Guardian.
AggregateIQ holds the key to unravelling another complicated network of influence that Mercer has created. A source emailed me to say he had found that AggregateIQ’s address and telephone number corresponded to a company listed on Cambridge Analytica’s website as its overseas office: “SCL Canada”.
It turns out, according to Cadwalladr, that Robert Mercer, the millionaire, alt-right owner of Cambridge Analytica also owns the intellectual property of Aggregate IQ. Cadwalladr discovered that the two companies have previously worked very closely together on a campaign in Trinidad and Tobago. Christopher Wylie, Cambridge Analytica’s data expert turned whistleblower, was allegedly involved in recruiting Aggregate IQ.
A project that Cambridge Analytica carried out in Trinidad in 2013 brings all the elements in this story together. Just as Robert Mercer began his negotiations with SCL boss Alexander Nix about an acquisition, SCL was retained by several government ministers in Trinidad and Tobago. The brief involved developing a micro-targeting programme for the governing party of the time. And AggregateIQ – the same company involved in delivering Brexit for Vote Leave – was brought in to build the targeting platform.
We also know that Robert Mercer is a good friend of Nigel Farage. Not long ago, Leave.EU’s communications director suggested that because of this, Cambridge Analytica were able to help without charging any money.
I have asked Christopher Wylie about the connection between Cambridge Analytica and AgrgregateIQ but so far I have not had a reply. However, it seems to me that there is enough evidence for a reasonable person to ponder exactly how closely these two companies are related. And to question how reliable Cambridge Analytica’s denial of being involved in Brexit really is.