Cambridge Analytical: how did it turn click into votes?

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels
Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

In 2018 the Guardian published an article on how 87 million people’s data were harvested and used for an advertising campaign to help swing election. This was done by using psychological profiles based on data harvested from millions of Facebook users. The organization that assembled the data was at the time described as a “little-known data company” called Cambridge Analytica, a name now synonymous with efforts to use Facebook data to try and influence election outcomes worldwide.

Cambridge Analytica is a political consulting firm set up in 2013 as an offshoot of SCL Group, their end goal was to persuade users to vote in favour of their client, this was done by setting an agenda through the media and advertising to project different advertising image’s, videos or displaying messages to a different audience that would likely result in a change of behavior of the voter on the same issue, therefore, they would be able to convince many different people with different personalities, to have the same opinion on a particular issue or candidate by using personalized, targeted advertisements. I will describe this as a case of infringement of data privacy without consent.

In 2015 Cambridge Analytical also tried to influence the Nigerian presidential election by using provocative graphic images to describe a candidate, Muhammadu Buhari as a supporter of sharia law who would brutally suppress dissenters and negotiate with militant Islamists. It included content where people were being mutilated, where people were having their throats cut and bled to death in a ditch. They also included videos of people burnt alive and threatening images portraying Muslims as violent.

This was aired on Television and Radio stations in Nigeria and they were widespread of this content on the social media. It was later discovered that Cambridge Analytical was hired by a Nigerian billionaire who was in favour of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. However, despite the rigorous campaign against Buhari he still emerged as the winner.

Cambridge analytical and their manipulation through social media is a clear justification that the media is used to sets an agenda on what they want their audience to see, which in most cases are not relevant or are overemphasized. Cambridge analytical created different advertising for a different audience, from the information gotten from Facebook, and project such advertising to them repeatedly in other to influence their behavior.