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Documentary showed Congress poster in Cambridge Analytica ex-CEO’s office

Asked about the poster in Alexander Nix’s office, a Congress spokesperson said the party had no links with Cambridge Analytica.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2018 08:49 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress party,Cambridge Analytica,Alexander Nix
A scene from the documentary that shows the Congress party’s poster behind former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix.(Video screengrab)

The Congress has repeatedly said it had no links with Cambridge Analytica, the company accused of using Facebook data to influence elections, but a BBC documentary aired last September prominently features a Congress poster in the office of the firm’s former CEO Alexander Nix.

Journalist Jamie Bartlett’s two-part documentary Secrets of Silicon Valley explored how Silicon Valley’s mission to connect the world was disrupting democracy and plunging the world into “an age of political turbulence”. He specifically explored the role played by social media and Facebook in getting Donald Trump into the White House.

In the second part titled The Persuasion Machine, Bartlett interviewed Nix at his London office to learn about the methods Cambridge Analytica had used for the campaigns of Ted Cruz and Trump, including the use of Facebook data to predict the actions and personalities of voters.

As Bartlett speaks to Nix, a large poster of the Congress can be seen within a frame on the wall behind the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica. Also on the wall are framed photos of leaders and parties whose campaigns had engaged the firm, such as Cruz and Trump.

The orange Congress poster prominently features the party’s hand symbol in the colours of the national flag with the legend “Congress – Development for all” below.

Bartlett’s questions for Nix focus on Cambridge Analytica’s role in the 2016 US presidential election and the two do not discuss the firm’s activities in India.

Asked about the poster displayed in Nix’s office, a spokesperson for the Congress said on Wednesday that the party had no links with Cambridge Analytica. The spokesperson reiterated the party’s assertion that it had never hired the firm for any poll-related work.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday night, information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani said: “Kya Baat hai @RahulGandhi Ji.. Congress ka Haath, Cambridge Analytica ke Saath!”

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

Nix says in the documentary that the information used to predict the personality of voters came from telephone surveys and several online platforms, including Facebook. He also appears to justify the use of information that is publicly shared by people on platforms such as Facebook during the brief interview.

He also says he believes the use of “more personalised communication” instead of “blanket advertising” is going to increase.

First Published: Mar 28, 2018 22:02 IST