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Cambridge Analytica parent firm worked on honour killings in India

SCL, parent company of Cambridge Analytica, states in one of the documents that it completed a project on “honour killings and cultural change” in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan between 2009 and 2010.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2018 22:25 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Cambridge Analytica,Strategic Communications Limited,India
Canadian data analytics expert and whistle-blower Christopher Wylie submitted a cache of documents to Britain’s parliamentary committee.(AFP File Photo)

The parent company of controversial political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica was not only closely involved in Indian elections since 2003, it also worked on a project to assess the incidence of honour killings in the country.

A cache of documents submitted by Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie to Britain’s parliamentary committee on digital, culture, media and sport, which was published on Thursday, includes texts of agreements that Strategic Communications Limited signed for elections in the US and elsewhere.

The cache includes a document on its involvement in Indian elections that was tweeted by Wylie on Wednesday, but it also has details on issues such as “Comprehensive research, followed by a targeted intervention, radically changed voter behaviour in Thailand”, and “Covert sponsorship of peaceful rallies in Indonesia prevented disorder and ensured a smooth transition to civilian rule”.

The documents date back to 2013, 2014 and earlier and lay bare the forensic ways in which voter behaviour was sought to be influenced in political processes in several countries. The parliamentary committee will continue its investigation into CA with more public hearings in April.

SCL states in one of the documents that it completed a project on “honour killings and cultural change” in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan between 2009 and 2010 , and goes on to explain its achievement.

It states: “Despite numerous legal instruments and policy pronouncements the custom of honour killing remains an issue in India and one that does not chime with its self-image as a modern democracy. At the level of enforcement, local police and magistrates are often sympathetic to the practice of killing.

“This has made systematic enforcement of the law somewhat problematic. SCL helped its client to better understand the often convoluted and secretive culture surrounding honour killings. The caste framework is deeply embedded into Indian society, however, economic growth and the breakdown of prejudices amongst the younger generation has challenged preconceptions around traditional culture.

“SCL examined the cultural and social systems that gave rise to killings, including the socio-cultural understandings of honour (maryada) that drove the murders. SCL analysed the issue via problem space mapping and on that foundation proposed a number of interventions to stop honour killings taking place.”

The Congress and the BJP have accused each other of using Cambridge Analytica in elections across the country. Wylie, who exposed Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data, told the parliamentary panel on Tuesday he “believes” the firm had been hired by the Congress.

First Published: Mar 29, 2018 18:55 IST