[Marxism] [SUSPICIOUS MESSAGE] How Cambridge Analytica poisoned Kenya's democracy

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 21 07:38:31 MDT 2018

Washington Post Blogs
March 21, 2018 Wednesday 1:18 AM EST

How Cambridge Analytica poisoned Kenya's democracy;
This is data neocolonialism, the same foreign interference that Uhuru 
Kenyatta pretended to be against.

BYLINE: Larry Madowo

Larry Madowo is a Kenyan broadcast journalist and writer. He tweets at 

No one company should have the power to manipulate the psychology of an 
entire country. We now know that Cambridge Analytica has done just that 
- not just in the United States, but also in the fragile political 
systems of the global south.

The company mined Kenyan voters' data to help President Uhuru Kenyatta 
win disputed elections. Over two presidential election cycles, it 
presided over some of the darkest and most vicious campaigns Kenya has 
ever seen. Cambridge Analytica confirmed its involvement to an 
undercover reporter for Britain's Channel 4, which released an exposé on 
Monday. Executives were taped saying that they ran "just about every 
element" of Kenyatta's campaign in 2013 and 2017, including rebranding 
his party twice, and writing the campaign's manifesto and speeches. The 
firm also did "two rounds of 50,000 surveys."

In Kenya, Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto breathlessly carped about 
Western imperialism and neocolonialism while reportedly paying a Western 
firm millions of dollars to get them elected. The rich irony of this 
shameless doublespeak aside, there are still many unanswered questions 
about how far Cambridge Analytica's work went and what ethical 
boundaries were breached.

What we know is that Cambridge Analytica helped hijack Kenya's 
democracy. It manipulated voters with apocalyptic attack ads and smeared 
Kenyatta's opponent Raila Odinga as violent, corrupt and dangerous. The 
two rivals might have since reconciled with a famous handshake, but that 
cannot erase the fact that innocent lives were lost because of a 
divisive campaign or that tribal rifts were opened with long-lasting 
effects. It is infuriating to hear the company's embattled and 
now-suspended CEO, Alexander Nix, flippantly admit that things "don't 
necessarily need to be true as long as they are believed." This is data 
neocolonialism, the same foreign interference Kenyatta pretended to be 

According to the New York Times, Cambridge Analytica experimented 
abroad, including in the Caribbean and Africa, where "privacy rules are 
lax or nonexistent." Politicians employing its parent company, SCL 
Group, were "happy to provide government-held data, according to former 
employees." Cambridge Analytica proudly touts case studies in Thailand, 
South Africa, India, Indonesia, and Trinidad and Tobago on its website. 
A Cambridge Analytica employee said in the Channel 4 exposé that it has 
also worked in Mexico and Malaysia and was expanding to Brazil and China.

In these developing countries, there has been no word about sanctions or 
even a demand for answers from Cambridge Analytica. Besides, those who 
are supposed to penalize the offending companies would likely have the 
privilege of being the direct beneficiaries of its nefarious operations.

Facebook, Twitter, Google and other technology companies that facilitate 
or amplify work by outfits such as Cambridge Analytica are complicit in 
poisoning democracies around the world. In Sri Lanka, Facebook has been 
accused of fanning hate speech that led to anti-Muslim riots, forcing 
the country to ban social media after protests left at least two people 
dead. U.N. officials investigating claims of genocide in Burma, also 
known as Myanmar, say Facebook was used to spread vitriol against 
Rohingya Muslims. A political battle in Cambodia between a leading 
opposition figure and the country's authoritarian prime minister over 
accusations of counterfeit "likes" on Facebook pages has spilled into a 
U.S. court. The Somalia-based terrorist group Al-Shabab live-tweeted its 
attack of the Westgate mall in Nairobi in 2013, leaving Twitter 
embarrassed and family members in anguish.

While Cambridge Analytica may face sanctions on both sides of the 
Atlantic, it will likely still get away with mischief and dangerous mind 
games in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. 
Regulators in those countries must step up to hold companies like this 
accountable or kick them out completely.

Kenyans must demand transparency and a full investigation. Sadly though, 
it is hard to imagine that Cambridge Analytica will ever be unwelcome 
here, when it helped elect the president twice.

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