How Shady Was Cambridge Analytica?
Posted on March 30th, 2018

Considering the work its parent company did trying to win Caribbean elections … potentially pretty shady.

CEO of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock and Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Concordia Summit.

When Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, was suspended by the political-data firm last week after being caught on camera by an undercover journalist offering, (among other unsavory things) to sway a Sri Lankan election by having someone posing as a wealthy developer come in” to offer a large amount of money to the candidate to finance his campaign in exchange for land,” his purported dirty tricks may have struck some as so devious-sounding as to be unbelievable. Perhaps, as the company at the center of Facebook’s ongoing privacy controversy claimed after Britain’s Channel 4 released the video, Nix was just playing along with a potential client. That’s a convenient explanation for the company, but it ignores one thing: The tactics Nix described aren’t so different from the kind of things that Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, has reportedly used in the past. Its purported activities in the Caribbean over the past decade or so might be particularly instructive.

We’ll have the whole thing recorded on cameras,” Nix told the undercover Channel 4 journalist. We’ll blank out the face of our guy, and then post it on the internet.” That, reportedly, is more or less what SCL did in 2010 in St. Kitts and Nevis, where it worked on the successful campaign of the incumbent Prime Minister Denzil Douglas against opposition leader Lindsay Grant’s election bid, according to the Times of London. As part of SCL’s efforts to win the race for Douglas, the firm reportedly mounted a sting operation against Grant at a Marriott hotel, where he was caught on video agreeing to sell land to a British buyer under market value in exchange for a $1.7 million donation to his campaign. That video was shared widely online days before the election on YouTube, including over one channel the Times reports was run by SCL called investigativerep1965.” That account is still active and contains just one video: the sting against Grant.

SCL continued to take clients in the Caribbean, like in the small island nation of St. Lucia, where in 2011 the company worked on the re-election campaign of then–Prime Minister Stephenson King, who ended up losing. But had King won, Bloomberg reported, SCL was set to receive a $1.9 million contract from St. Lucia to run a public health ad campaign against smoking and obesity, a million of which would be used for the health ads while the other $900,000 would have been back pay for the company’s work on the election. King didn’t win, and the public health campaign reportedly never came to fruition.

2013 wasn’t the first time SCL did work in Trinidad and Tobago. The company was also present in advance of the 2010 elections there, which concluded with the United National Congress party’s candidate becoming prime minister. According to a brochure from SCL obtained by the BBC, SCL claims that it helped a candidate’s campaign by painting graffiti around the island made to look like it ostensibly came from the youth,” which allowed SCL’s client to adopt policies and claim credit for listening to a ‘united youth.’ ” That the company resorted to fake graffiti suggests it certainly wasn’t above using underhanded tactics, though the misbehavior it is accused of in the U.S.—inappropriately harvesting 50 million Facebook profiles to beef up its political-data efforts in 2014—are a great deal more complicated. One of the questions we’re still left with is: Was Cambridge Analytica any good at it?

Read more from Slate on Cambridge Analytica.

One Response to “How Shady Was Cambridge Analytica?”

  1. Christie Says:

    There are lots of Indian Colonial Parasites living in the Caribbean like in our island nation.

    Face book was used by India and Indian Colonial Parasites in the last two presidential elections in our country.

    A friend of mine has been kicked out of face book for exposing and expressing opinions about the Indian Empire, Indian Colonial Parasites and Indian Parasites.

    Indian coders in the IT sector in the world are one of the most powerful lot in the world.

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