- Whistle-blower says firm directed AggregateIQ to target voters with Islamophobic video in 2015
Cambridge Analytica sought to influence the Nigerian presidential election in 2015 by using graphically violent imagery to portray a candidate as a supporter of Sharia law who would brutally suppress dissenters and negotiate with militant Islamists, a video passed to British MPs has revealed.
London-based newspaper The Guardian reported yesterday that it obtained the video, which has graphic scenes of violence from Nigeriaâ€™s past. In testimony to the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) select committee last week, the whistleblower Christopher Wylie told MPs: â€œ[The video was distributed] in Nigeria with the sole intent of intimidating voters.
â€œIt included content where people were being dismembered, where people were having their throats cut and bled to death in a ditch. They were being burned alive. There was incredibly anti-Islamic, threatening messages portraying Muslims as violent.â€
Wylie also said Cambridge Analytica directed AggregateIQ (AIQ), the Canadian digital services firm that worked for Vote Leave during Britainâ€™s EU referendum, to target voters with the video during the Nigerian presidential campaign.
Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica employee, has now handed the material to MPs. Giving testimony last week, he said: â€œCambridge Analytica sent AggregateIQ the video after they [CA] got banned from several online ad networks because the graphic nature of the content violated the terms of service.
â€œAIQ was quite freaked out about it. Itâ€™s a very disturbing video. They told Cambridge Analytica that. They called it â€˜the murder videoâ€™.â€
In his testimony Wylie said: â€œAIQ is the firm thatâ€™s right at the heart of the official Vote Leave campaign â€“ one-third of all leave spending went through it â€“ and this shows them working closely with Cambridge Analytica to distribute violent, divisive Islamophobic material that should be nowhere near an election campaign.â€ But there is no suggestion that AIQ was involved in the production of the video.
Cambridge Analytica was hired by a Nigerian billionaire to run a campaign in support of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, and the video was targeted at his Muslim opponent, Muhammadu Buhari, who went on to win the election. There is no suggestion that Jonathan was aware of the campaign.
The anti-Buhari video imagines a future in which he is president and the Sharia law has been imposed. â€œComing to Nigeria on February 15th 2015,â€ the voiceover says in the manner of a trailer for a Hollywood movie. â€œDark. Scary. And very uncertain. Sharia for all.â€ It poses the question: â€œWhat would Nigeria look like if Sharia were imposed by Buhari?â€
It suggests he would strike a deal with the Islamist militant group Boko Haram that would be â€œa pact with the devilâ€. The video also suggests â€œBuhari will punish all who speak against the regimeâ€ and that â€œwomen will be veiledâ€. It ends by saying: â€œYou can stop this movie becoming real.â€
Another former Cambridge Analytica employee who worked on the campaign said: â€œIt was voter suppression of the most crude and basic kind. It was targeted at Buhari voters in Buhari regions to basically scare the shit out of them and stop them from voting.
â€œPeople were working on it in Cambridge Analyticaâ€™s office. Theyâ€™d be sitting there eating their lunch and editing this incredibly graphic and disturbing material.â€
The video will be seen as further evidence of the dirty tricks that Cambridge Analytica employed in the campaign.
Last month the Guardian revealed that during the Nigerian election campaign in 2015, Cambridge Analytica was offered material from Israeli hackers who had accessed private email accounts of two politicians there.
Former Cambridge Analytica employees described how the hackers passed a thumb drive of hacked material relating to Buhari to them in Cambridge Analyticaâ€™s offices and they were directed by Alexander Nix, its chief executive, and Brittany Kaiser, a senior director, to search Buhariâ€™s personal emails for compromising material that could be used to smear him.
The material included private medical information that employees say was leaked to the press.
The video separately demonstrates the ties between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ, the firm that its parent company SCL Elections employed.
Last week the DCMS committee published documents that link Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections with AIQ, including a contract, a service agreement and an intellectual property agreement that was first revealed in the Observer a year ago.
AggregateIQ is part of a current Electoral Commission investigation into a donation of Â£625,000 that Vote Leave made to a youth outreach group, BeLeave, which was paid directly to the Canadian firm and it is the focus of allegations made by a second whistleblower, Shahmir Sanni.
AggregateIQ did not respond to previous Guardian inquiries about the video, but said: â€œAIQ provides digital advertising, web and software development services to third parties. It is completely independent of Mr Wylie, CA and SCL.â€
It added: â€œAIQ is and has always been 100% Canadian owned and operated â€¦ the services it provided to Vote Leave were in accordance with instructions given by Vote Leave.â€ There is no suggestion that AggregateIQ unethically coordinated with Cambridge Analytica on the EU referendum campaign.
A Cambridge Analytica spokesman said: â€œYou are referring to Chris Wylieâ€™s comments before a select committee which included speculation and a serious misrepresentation of the facts. We are, however, taking all allegations about possible unethical practices in the past very seriously and will investigate.â€