The managing director of Cambridge Analytica, the data analysis firm at the center of a firestorm over its sway in multiple elections, was filmed describing its dominant role in Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election campaigns in 2013 and 2017.
“We have rebranded the entire party twice, written their manifesto, done two rounds of 50,000 (participant) surveys,” Mark Turnbull, MD of Cambridge Analytica Political Global, was covertly filmed saying by U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 in a report aired this week.
“Then we’d write all the speeches and we’d stage the whole thing — so just about every element of his campaign,” Turnbull added.
Cambridge Analytica is in the midst of a dispute after an undercover sting operation caught senior executives boasting about psychological manipulation, entrapment techniques and fake news campaigns. The company’s CEO has been suspended and the U.K.’s Information Commissioner is seeking a warrant to raid its London office.
It is alleged to have used data gathered from Facebook users via a third party app to influence votes, including in the U.S. presidential election and the Brexit referendum, both in 2016. Cambridge Analytica has said that it was “committed to being responsible, fair and secure with data.”
The company’s website describes its work in Kenya in 2013 as “the largest political research project ever conducted in East Africa,” which enabled the crafting of a campaign “based on the electorate’s real needs (jobs) and fears (tribal violence).” The 2013 vote was the first after brutal violence in 2008, in which over 1,000 people were killed.
Cambridge Analytica’s methods involved working with a local research partner “to ensure that variations in language and customs were respected.” The outcome targeted young voters via social media.
The spotlight on Cambridge Analytica’s methods comes at a time when internet and social media-based influence over Kenyan voters has reached an apex, according to a Nairobi-based data analysis company.
“Misinformation and disinformation have been part of the Kenyan electoral experience since time immemorial,” Samer Ahmed, founder of Odipo Dev, told CNBC via email. But it was during 2017’s initial August election, and its subsequent October re-run, that a “critical mass” of the voter population was exposed to the internet and social media.”This changed the game significantly with regards to the misinformation landscape,” Ahmed said. He described “filter bubbles” on social media that acted as a “strong conduit for the fake news we saw spreading within the country.”…