Trump-linked data firm suggested stoking ethnic tensions in Latvia

Take note – story published 7 years and 2 months ago

A British data firm that is credited with playing a major role in the success of US President Donald J Trump's election campaign had previously suggested stoking ethnic tensions in Latvia a decade ago, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The firm in question, Cambridge Analytica, was hired by oligarchs Andris Skele and Ainars Slesers as part of their joint bid to retain the political power than was slipping away from them.

Widely reviled and with a reputation for growing rich while the rest of the country struggled to get by, two-time Prime Minister Skele and Transport Minister Slesers decided outside help was required as they prepared their new party Par Labu Latviju (For The Good of Latvia) ahead of elections in 2010.

To do so, they hired London-based SCL Group, an affiliate of Cambridge Analytica, Bloomberg said.

SCL Elections, the political wing of SCL, boasts on its website "By breaking down issues and the electorate in a scientific way we help Presidents, Prime Ministers and candidates better present their policies and communicate with their audience."

"Our methodology has been approved by the UK Ministry of Defence, the US State Department, Sandia National Laboratories and NATO," it adds.

SCL first made an appearance in Latvia in 2006, producing a report that suggested blaming ethnic Russians for an economic situation that was soon to result in Europe's biggest recession.

"In essence, Russians were blamed for unemployment and other problems affecting the economy,” an SCL document is quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

Far from using advanced data analysis and sophisticated means of swaying undecided voters, SCL was in effect recommending further exacerbating all-too-familiar ethnic divide in Latvian society.

According to SCL's own website, their work in Latvia consisted of the following:

"The former Deputy Prime Minister Ainars Slesers and his running mate Andres Skele commissioned SCL Elections to undertake a Target Audience Analysis of the Latvian population. In addition to a comprehensive quantitative national level programme, local research teams conducted over 200 intense in-depth interviews and more than 50 focus groups throughout the five constituencies. SCL Elections was able to identify the key behavioural triggers that would influence the election and could be used to inform the candidate’s campaign strategy."

However, far from performing a Trump-like miracle despite its populist policies, Par Labu Latviju flopped at the polls in 2010, winning just eight seats and the party was wound up a year later.

SCL subsequently became embroiled in a dispute with the Latvijas Fakti pollster to which it had subcontracted work, according to the Bloomberg report.

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