Meet the oh so pukka British company that has been helping Najib with his Malaysian election campaigns.
Today on UK TV’s Channel 4 News the people behind Cambridge Analytica admit (to a fake potential dirty client) the tactics they have used and are prepared to use.
They further boast that they have been operating in Malaysia.
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Taking up the Guardian/Observer story on Cambridge Analytica (also known as SCL – Strategic Communications Laboratories) Channel 4 News reporters posed as prospective dirty clients from Sri Lanka.
Their secret recordings as they ‘negotiated the contract’ included discussions with the company’s Managing Director in charge of elections, ex-Bell Pottinger man for South Asia Mark Turnbull and also the CEO of the company Alexander Nix.
In the course of those conversations the two made clear that they are prepared to help governments run secret and deceptive elections campaigns to influence voters without their knowledge. They played up their success using new media tactics in the Trump election – for which they are currently under fire after it became clear they have lied about stealing Facebook date from 50 million US citizens.
However, the company, which has two decades of history in election operations around South East Asia and other developing countries, made clear it is willing and able to indulge in other more traditional tactics to discredit and undermine political opponents of their clients. This includes entrapment (hiring protitutes for honey traps) and defamation, according to the company’s top spokesmen.
Below are some quotes from the Channel 4 film shown Monday night:
Narrator – “Steve Bannon was a Vice President of Cambridge Analytica, de facto founding father and the company has been hailed as the digital gurus behind that shock victory.
CEO Alexander Nix on stage: We were able to use data to identify that there were very large quantities of persuadable voters that could be influenced to vote for the Trump campaign.
Alexander Nix in private: We send some girls roud to the candidate’s house.
Mark Turnbull Managing Director: I know people who used to work for M15 MI6… we put information into the bloodstream of the internet and then watch it grow…
Narrator: Cambridge Analaytica acquires ad analyses vast amounts of personal data to identify swing voters a out exactly what they care about “so you know exactly who to target with exactly what type of message” and they influence them through bespoke adverts on social media. These micro targeting messages, the company boasts privately were integral to Trump’s victory. To get an inside track on C A we posed as a potential client… we met Alex Taylor their chief data officer and MD Mark Turnbull.
Alex Taylor – if you are collecting data on people and profilng them it give you more information to know how to segment the population to give them messaging about issues that they care about.. and we use that in America and we use it in Africa, that’s what we do as a company
Mark Turnbull – We have done it in Mexico, we have done it in Malaysia and now we are moving to Brazil, China…Australia…. You mentioned intelligence gathering as well as part of the mix didn’t you?
– yes corporate intelligence.
..we have relationships and partnerships with specialist organisations of that kind that do that kind of work. You know who the opposition is you know their secrets, you know their tactics…
Turnbull – There are two fundamental human drivers when it comes to taking information on board are hopes and fears and many of those are unspoken and even unconscious. You didn’t know that was a fear until you saw something that just evoked that reaction from you. And our job is to drop the bucket further down the well than anybody else to find out what are those really deep seated underlying fears, concerns are. It is no good fighting an election on the facts because actually its all about emotion…..
…. The [notorious] Kenyatta campaign which we ran in 2013 and 2017 .. we have rebranded their party twice, written their manifesto, done two rounds of 50,000 surveys, huge amounts of research, analysing messaging, then we’d write all the speeches and we’d stage the whole thing. Just about every element of his campaign.
Narrator: At our next meeting with Mark Turnbull we get a startling account of a company prepared to wade into a foreign election and then disappear without a trace.… We brought up the subject of digging dirt on opponents.
Mark Turnbull – There are various intelligence gathering organisations that operate very discreetly to find information like that. I know people who used to work for MI6 and MI6 they now work for these private organisations. They will find all the skeletons in his closet, quietly and discreetly and give you a report.
….. It has to happen without anyone thinking that’s propaganda, because the moment you think that’s propaganda the next question is who put it out? So we have to be very subtle. …. Maybe if we have to contract under a different name, so that no record exists with our name attached to this at all.
..We are not in the business of fake news, lying, or making stuff up and we are not in the business of entrapment… so we wouldn’t send a pretty girl out to seduce a politician and then film them in their bedroom and then release the film. There are companies that do this, but to me that crosses a line.
Narrator – this was a battle cry for electoral ethics [by Turnbull] but how hollow it would soon sound! … Finally we met the man at the helm CEO Alexander Nix agreed to meet…
Alexander Nix [on phone] “ We are used to operating through different vehicles, in the shadows and I look forward to building a very long term and secretive relationship with you!’
Narrator – Our Final meeting with Cambridge Analytica, Mark Turnbull now joined by his boss Alexander Nix. The man who in public who eulogises free and fair elections but in private appears to play dirty. For a company claiming not to be in the business of entrapment, listen now to Alexander Nix when our potential client asked about digging dirt on opponents
Alexander Nix – We do a lot more than that I can tell you. I mean deep digging is interesting, but you know equally effective can be to go and speak to the incumbents and offer them a deal that’s too good to be true and make sure that’s video recorded you know, these sorts of tactics can be very effective. Instantly having a video evidence of corruption, putting it on the internet, these sorts of things.
– And the operative you will use for this is who?
Well someone known to us.. we will have a wealthy developer come in, someone posing as a wealthy developer
Mark Turnbull – I am the master of disguise!
Alexander Nix – They will offer a large amount of money to a candidate to finance his campaign, in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded on cameras. We will blank out the face of our guy and then we will post it on the internet….. We will send some girls around to the candidate’s house, we have lot’s of history of things.
– For example, you are saying when you are using the girls to introduce to the local fellow and you are using them for seduction? They are not local girls not Sri Lankan girls?!
Nix – I would’t have thought so no, we’ll bring some.. Ukranians in, on holiday with us, you know..
– Yes, they are very beautiful, Ukranian girls
Nix – They are very beautiful, I find that works very well…. I am just giving you examples of what can be done and what has been done…. I know it sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these [tactics and accusations] are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they are believed.
Narrator – Nix says they can operate in elections under a number of guises
Nix – often if we are working we can set up fake IDs and websites – we can go is as students doing research projects .. we can be tourists, so many options. I’ve had lots of experience in this. We just used a separate organisation to do a very successful operation in an Eastern European country. No one knew they were there they just drift, they were just ghosted in, did the work, ghosted out…. We have experience doing this.. we subcontract… we use British companies, we use Israeli companies… from Israel, very effective in intelligence gathering…
Narrator – So there you have it, the so called digital masterminds of the American elections offering to influence others by means covert and corrupt.