World

Cambridge Analytica: The data firm's global influence

Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix has been suspended amid the controversy

The company accused of using the personal data of millions of Facebook users to influence how people vote is not shy about its international portfolio.

Political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica is facing questions over whether it used personal data to sway the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum.

But its reach extends well beyond the UK and US, with its website boasting of supporting more than 100 campaigns across five continents.

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Media captionAlexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica was filmed by undercover reporters for Channel 4 News

The company has suspended its CEO, Alexander Nix, who was filmed as part of a Channel 4 investigation giving examples of how the firm could swing elections around the world with underhand tactics such as smear campaigns and honey traps.

The UK-based company, which denies any wrongdoing, has an extensive record of work abroad. Here's what we know about it.

Europe

As part of the Channel 4 investigation, executives said Cambridge Analytica and its parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) had worked in more than 200 elections across the world, including in the Czech Republic.

"We've just used a different organisation to run a very, very successful project in an Eastern European country where... no-one even knew they were there," company executive Mark Turnbull said.

Cambridge Analytica's website also says it was involved in political campaigning in Italy in 2012, on behalf of a "resurgent political party last successful in the 1980s".

"CA's suggested reforms allowed the party to perform beyond its initial expectations at a time of turbulence in Italian politics," it says.

But the role of SCL goes back much further. It claims to have helped the Orange Revolution in 2004 in Ukraine which helped bring the pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko to power.

"SCL succeeded in maintaining the cohesion of the coalition to ensure a hard-fought victory," an old post on the SCL website reads.

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Image caption SCL says it was hired to "erode and weaken" anti-government opposition in Donetsk

More recently, SCL says it was hired by the Ukrainian government to provide "localised communications campaigns" to help them win back control of Donetsk during the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

"The final project report was delivered to the President of Ukraine...this report was pivotal in later national decisions," the company says.

Kenya

Cambridge Analytica was used twice to help secure victory for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta - first in 2013, then again in 2017.

Officially, the company's website boasts of doing in-depth research to uncover the issues driving voters in the country.

But Mr Turnbull told Channel 4 their input actually went much further.

"We have rebranded the entire party twice, written the manifesto, done research, analysis, messaging. I think we wrote all the speeches and we staged the whole thing - so just about every element of this candidate," he said.

Mr Kenyatta's Jubilee Party has downplayed the impact of the group, saying it employed the company's parent company, SCL, to help with branding.

But the country's main opposition coalition - the National Super Alliance (Nasa) - has called for a full investigation to be carried out.

"This was a criminal enterprise which clearly wanted to subvert the will of the people - through manipulation, through propaganda," official Norman Magaya told the BBC.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The firm says it controlled "every element" of President Kenyatta's election victory last year

Nigeria

Reports suggest that the data analysis firm also played a controversial role in Nigeria's 2015 presidential election.

The UK's Guardian newspaper says that Cambridge Analytica was hired by a Nigerian billionaire who was "panicking at the idea of a change of government" to work on then-president Goodluck Jonathan's re-election campaign.

The newspaper said sources familiar with the campaign described how the company was looking to collect "kompromat" - compromising material or information - on opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari.

Image copyright Red Media Africa
Image caption Goodluck Jonathan congratulated Muhammadu Buhari (pictured) on his win

Witnesses told the paper that Cambridge Analytica was then offered material from Israeli computer hackers amid election campaigns in Nigeria and St Kitts and Nevis.

The hackers had reportedly gained access to the private emails of two politicians who are now heads of state.

"Cambridge Analytica was paid an estimated £2m to orchestrate a ferocious campaign against [Mr Buhari]," the Guardian reported.

Mr Buhari went on to win the presidential race and there is no suggestion that Mr Jonathan was aware of any alleged wrongdoing.

SCL Elections, Cambridge Analytica's parent company, has denied receiving or using hacked or stolen information.

Mexico

In July 2017, Cambridge Analytica revealed that it had teamed up with a phone app in Mexico and Colombia called Pig.gi, which gives users free service in exchange for watching adverts and taking surveys.

The firm was hoping to use data mined from Pig.gi to help a candidate in Mexico's July 2018 presidential election, according to Bloomberg.

"There's a huge opportunity in this country to find the issues that are important for people and actually turn people out to vote," Cambridge Analytica's vice-president of business development, Brittany Kaiser, said.

Separately, it was reported in October that the head of operations for Cambridge Analytica in Mexico, Arielle Dale Karro, had posted an advertisement on a Facebook page for foreigners living in the country.

The post sought people "with significant political experience" who were interested in becoming a campaign manager in one of eight Mexican states, Buzzfeed reported.

Cambridge Analytica later denied that Ms Karro was carrying out any political work for the firm. Mr Nix also stated that "Cambridge Analytica is not working for any political party in Mexico".

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Media captionFormer Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie says the firm planted fake news

Brazil

Cambridge Analytica was reportedly "prospecting for clients in Brazil's presidential race" that is due to take place later this year.

CA Ponte, a partnership between Cambridge Analytica and Brazilian consultancy firm Ponte Estrategia, "had been in touch with representatives of three potential candidates", according to Bloomberg.

The partnership's director André Torretta told the El Pais newspaper [in Portuguese] that he had been approached by two presidential campaigns but had not reached a deal with either.

India

Cambridge Analytica is part of the India branch of the SCL group which offers "political campaign management" among its services.

It lists India's two main political parties - the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress - among its clients.

Himanshu Sharma, the firm's vice president says on his publicly available LinkedIn profile that the company has "successfully managed four election campaigns for the BJP".

He names among them the 2014 general election which swept Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power.

However both parties have denied any links with the company.

The head of the BJP's social media unit Amit Malviya told the BBC that the party had "not heard of SCL Group... so there is no question of us working with them".

And the Congress party said it had never used SCL or any of its affiliate companies as it has its own data analytical team.

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Media captionMr Nix spoke to BBC Newsnight before the Channel 4 report was aired on Monday night. He declined to be interviewed after the undercover footage was broadcast

Malaysia

In the Channel 4 investigation, Malaysia was named as one of the countries in which Cambridge Analytica had operated, sparking a huge national debate ahead of a general election.

The company's website reportedly stated that it supported Prime Minister Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition during generation election campaigning in Kedah state in 2013 "with a targeted messaging campaign highlighting their school improvements".

Mr Najib and the BN strongly denied having used the company. They said its advice was "provided personally" to Mukhriz Mahathir - he was at that time part of BN and went on to be Kedah's chief minister.

Mr Mukhriz, in turn, denied this, but his former media manager has contradicted his denial.

Mr Mukhriz, now with the opposition, will be running against Mr Najib for prime minister in the coming elections.

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