No wonder Tories are keeping a low profile over the latest Cambridge Analytica evidence

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove
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More evidence has emerged about alleged collusion between the pro-Brexit groups that paid data miners AggregateIQ and that firm’s corporate links with Cambridge Analytica.

‘Debate’

When questions were raised in the Commons on alleged breaches of electoral law during the EU referendum, Vote Leave’s Michael Gove and Boris Johnson – and the Tories generally – took a low profile:

Read on...

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Software shared

It has now emerged that Canadian-based data miner AggregateIQ developed the software platform Cambridge Analytica used during the 2016 US presidential elections. (It’s not known whether AggregateIQ used this platform, or an adapted version, in the run-up to the EU referendum in the UK.)

The evidence was found by Chris Vickery, research director at cyber resilience firm UpGuard. The files he discovered then ‘disappeared’, but notes show that Cambridge Analytica’s parent company – Strategic Communication Laboratories (now SCL Group) – requested the code be passed to AggregateIQ’s lead developer Koji Hamid Pourseyed.

This discovery raises further questions about the links between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ.

AggregateIQ-Cambridge Analytica links?

Now, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie claims he helped establish AggregateIQ so that SCL Group could expand its operations. He also claims that AggregateIQ was basically the Canadian ‘department’ of Cambridge Analytica.

At the Commons Select Committee on Culture on 27 March 2018, Wylie stated:

I am absolutely convinced that there was a common plan and common purpose with Vote Leave, BeLeave, the DUP, and Veterans for Britain. All of these companies somehow, for some reason, all decided to use AIQ [AggregateIQ]… When you look at the accumulation of evidence, I think it would be completely unreasonable to come to any other conclusion other than this must be coordination, this must be a common purpose plan.

Here is his testimony:

Collusion?

Vote Leave whistleblower Shahmir Sanni claims there was coordination between the groups making payments to AggregateIQ, so breaking electoral rules.

Here are the payments received by AggregateIQ for the Brexit campaign:

Altogether, Vote Leave paid a total of £3.5m to the Canadian company.

Grimes – now deputy editor of BrexitCentral (run by Vote Leave head Matthew Elliott) – told the Electoral Commission that BeLeave’s spending:

was done in isolation of Vote Leave Ltd… we didn’t discuss with Vote Leave how we would spend the money apart from telling them that it was for our digital campaign and that is why we asked for the money to be paid directly to the company were working with AggregateIQ.

But since the authorities started to investigate these payments, files have been allegedly deleted. Fair Vote alleges that a senior Vote Leave staff member, Victoria Woodcock, went through a drive shared by Vote Leave, BeLeave and AggregateIQ, removing [pdf, p3] access for herself and Vote Leave’s campaign director Dominic Cummings and digital director Henry de Zoete from hundreds of documents.

It doesn’t stop there

Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica’s former business development manager, says she advised Leave.EU – fronted by UKIP’s Nigel Farage – on how to target voters through social media; and that the work-in-kind billed by Cambridge Analytica was equal to £40,000 (but undeclared by the campaign group).

The Leave.EU campaign recently deleted a webpage called The Science Behind Our Strategy which says “[Cambridge Analytica] will be helping us map the British electorate and what they believe in, enabling us to better engage with voters”. But an archived copy has been retrieved.

Elsewhere, it’s reported that the Labour Leave campaign received £400,000 of donations, including £15,000 from Vote Leave, £150,000 and a further £25,000 from UKIP donor Richard Smith, £150,000 from Tory donor Jeremy Hosking, and £30,000 each from Tory backers JCB and the far-right The Freedom Association.

And then there’s No. 10:

Prosecution?

Cambridge Analytica has issued a detailed statement, refuting the allegations made by Wylie:

Cambridge Analytica subcontracted some digital marketing and software development to Aggregate IQ in 2014 and 2015. The suggestion that Cambridge Analytica was somehow involved in any work done by Aggregate IQ in the 2016 EU referendum is entirely false.

Meanwhile, lawyers possess a cache of evidence that appears to confirm that Vote Leave and BeLeave acted to coordinate their campaigns via AggregateIQ. Copies of allegedly incriminating emails, chat room discussions, photographs and other material have been produced. These claim to show that Vote Leave set up BeLeave to avoid the £7m spending limit and that officials from the two campaigns used the same Google drives to share documents.

Gove and Johnson, who both fronted Vote Leave, deny any wrongdoing. But given the new evidence amassed, we may now be entering new territory.

Featured image via BackBoris2012 campaign/Flickr and Policy Exchange/Flickr

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