Alagi Yorro Jallow

Fatoumatta: To protect our nascent democracy from such foreign political mercenaries, it may be desirable to curtail or ban, through legislation, Cambridge Analytica, Aristotle Inc., and any PR or IT consultant’s involvement in our politics.

Indeed, we have seen very distasteful propaganda and fear-mongering directed at stoking ethnic animosity against political opponents during election campaigns elsewhere. This is a most dangerous adventure, given the existing ethnic fissures in the Gambia. We want our politicians to come clean and not to allow Cambridge Analytica and Aristotle Inc. play in their campaigns, especially in the new-found spirit of dialogue in the country, so that we can openly deal with the rifts in the fabric of our society created by these political mercenaries.

The growth of digital media across Africa presents new opportunities to engage in sophisticated campaigns to influence not just voters, but also policymakers and governments. Cambridge Analytica-influenced elections in Africa provide information to governments and political parties to influence people in the middle – those with moderate views who can be persuaded to join a side based on appeals to emotion. Cambridge Analytica analyzes precisely whom to target and then crafts messages that play on the electorate’s hopes and fears, not facts.

Fatoumatta: Evidence has shown that digital tools have been used extensively in politics as political parties spend millions on foreign PR and IT consultants. It’s no secret that Privacy International has reported that African political parties have spent millions of dollars to contract with Cambridge Analytica and retain Aristotle Inc. for analytics operations to manipulate elections in favor of their client.

Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix has been suspended amid the controversy

Fatoumatta: Cambridge Analytica steals personal data to destabilize elections globally. It is a giant hoax that subverts the people’s will and should not be invited into the Gambia by any politician or political party. Cambridge Analytica’s tactics are the modern-day equivalent of high-tech grass-roots politics using the personal data stored by internet companies.

It takes that information as part of a larger attempt to convince social media companies to shut down progressive opinions from tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter and has the effect of targeting and silencing progressive voices. This entire electoral fraud in Kenya for example is designed to pressure Facebook into cracking down on supposed political opponents and political activities, alleging censorship on the part of social media platforms that act to promote fake news and hate speech.

Cambridge Analytica is a British political consulting firm which combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process. To date, the Gambia lacks a broad data protection law, so internet users are essentially at the mercy of their own discernment.

Cambridge Analytica boasts of dirty tricks it has used to influence, or even swing, elections around the world via secretive tactics, honey traps, and secretive campaigning. For example, Mark Turnbull, its managing director, said of one political party that retained the firm, “We have rebranded the entire party twice, written their manifesto, done two rounds of 50,000 surveys… We’d write all the speeches and stage the whole thing, so just about every element of his campaign.”

Fatoumatta: Cambridge Analytica and its role in destabilizing elections makes for a sizzling thriller, such as The Fifth Estate, or whisperings about a “fifth column.”

Following coverage on the firm since 2017, which is now reaching a crescendo, leaves me thinking that Cambridge Analytica might be the shiny new form of excitement that helps the political hacks get away with electoral fraud. US governments have destabilized others’ elections and sponsored political assassinations across the globe for years and gotten away with it.

Now, we know that Russia did it to them, and the embarrassing results sting big time. But Cambridge Analytica is just a business selling mind-hack services to the highest bidder, manipulating the masses who are easy to program with click-bait. Anyone can fall for a fake story or two and still have the mind to think critically and independently, but it’s the irrational, information warfare-driven mass hysteria that shifts political tides, and Cambridge Analytica are masters at instigating this warfare.

Now, they are claiming they have had a big hand in rigging elections globally for years now. There is no reason to disbelieve them if one follows the trail of intrigues, but I think it becomes easy to point fingers at “those evil politicians” and forget those who masterminded and carried out electoral fraud by electoral officials, stealing data from election management systems.

No matter what outside forces work to destroy a house, they can succeed because of the enemies within. Does the Gambia have the guts to do an investigation into Cambridge Analytica’s activities in the country and to learn who colluded with them by stealing personal data from social media for electioneering? I can only hope so. Fatoumatta!!!