To avoid making this article epic length, it will be broken down in stages. This is Part 1, Background
Cambridge Analytica was founded (around 2013-2015) by conservative businessmen Steve Bannon and Oligargh Robert Mercer in order to infulence the 2016 presidential election. Around 15 million dollars was originally invested into the company by Mercer as a subsidiary to the SCL group.
CA did not spring out of nowhere. It has a history and before delving into CA, you need to know more about the SCL Group and the Behavioural Dynamics Institute (BDI)
In 1990, Nigel Oakes, who had a background in TV production and advertising, founded the BDI as a research facility for strategic communication: the study of mass behaviour and how to change it. Oakes thought that to shift mass opinion, academic insights as gained through psychologists and anthropologists at BDI should be applied, and would be more successful than traditional advertising methods. Oakes established Strategic Communication Laboratories in 1993 to monetise the BDI research while BDI became a non-profit affiliate of SCL.
SCL was successful commercially and then expanded into military and political arenas. It became known for alleged involvement “in military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting”. In 2005, “with a glitzy exhibit” at Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), “the United Kingdom’s largest showcase for military technology”, SCL demonstrated its capacity in “influence operations”, in particular, “to help orchestrate a sophisticated campaign of mass deception” on the public. According to its website, SCL has participated in over 25 international political and electoral campaigns since 1994.
SCL’s involvement in the political world has been primarily in the developing world where it has been used by the military and politicians to study and manipulate public opinion and political will. It uses what have been called “PsyOps” to provide influence the thinking of the target audience. SCL claimed to be able to help foment coups. According to its website, SCL has influenced elections in Italy, Latvia, Ukraine, Albania, Romania, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius, India, Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Colombia, Antigua, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Trinidad & Tobago. While the company initially got involved in elections in the United Kingdom, it ceased to do so after 1997 because staff members did not exhibit the same “aloof sensibility” as with projects abroad.
SCL claims that its methodology (more on this in a later part) has been approved or endorsed by agencies of the Government of the United Kingdom and the Federal government of the United States, among others.
For Part 2 click here