Cambridge Analytica linked company taught at NATO STRATCOMCOE

Anglo-American data company Cambridge Analytica is making lots of headlines around the world after revelations that a data leak from Facebook allowed it access to tens of millions of accounts, and an undercover operation by British broadcaster Channel 4 News that caught the firm's executives boasting of its methods of manipulating public opinion.

LSM reported a year ago that Cambridge Analytica's parent company, Strategic Communications Laboratories Group (SCL), was active in Latvia with a project from 2010 during which it suggested stoking ethnic tensions as an effective election strategy for a political party.

But according to independent TV3 television's Nekā Personīga (Nothing Personal) investigative show March 25, SCL has been active in Latvia more recently, teaching an 8-week course at the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (STRATCOMCOE) which is based in Rīga.

"NATO military personnel and ministry representatives took part in the lessons, but the methods were not anything to do with digital manipulation, more about social interaction," STRATCOMCOE's director Jānis Sarts told the show, adding that there was nothing "mega-new" in the content of the course, which took place three years ago and that the center had not been particularly impressed by the content of the course or the value for money offered. Subsequently the services of SCL or Cambridge Analytica have not been used, Sarts said.

Nekā Personīga also noted that a 2014 publication by British researcher Steve Tatham and Canada's Rita Le Page for the National Defence Academy of Latvia titled NATO Strategic Communication: More To Be Done? had recommended developing links with SCL Group.

The report praises the expertise of another British company, the "Behavioural Dynamics Institute" (BDI) which is described as "worthy of examination" and "at the forefront of behavioural communication for some years."

BDI was set up in 1990 by Nigel Oakes - who also set up SCL Group in 1993.

Later in the same document the authors say:

"We would urge NATO to engage with respected TAA (Target Audience Analysis) providers such as SCL Ltd, who have an outstanding track record of providing TAA services to member nations, to more clearly understand its benefits and potential future application."

 

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