The role of the British firm Cambridge Analytica in influencing how people vote all over the world is now there for everyone to see. In Kenya, the company's role in helping Uhuru Kenyatta secure the presidency in 2013 and 2017 has been revealed.
Britain's Channel 4 showed the impact of how the right-leaning digital marketing firm targets voters with propaganda to influence their voting decisions. Cambridge Analytica executives say they worked for the re-election of President Kenyatta behind the scenes.
The tactics involved the deliberate smear campaigns targeted at Uhuru Kenyatta's main rival Raila Odinga. Mark Turnbull, the managing director of Cambridge Analytica's Political Global, says they engineered a digital campaign that painted Mr Kenyatta in positive light while smearing his main rival Raila Odinga.
The smear campaign against Mr Odinga, which featured apocalyptic scenes, had one strong message: "Stop Raila Save Kenya... ... .The Future of Kenya is in Your Hands."
The machinations of Cambridge Analytica are ruthless in nature. The nature of the smear campaign against Odinga hinged on issues that Kenyans are sensitive to; such as health, infrastructure, and terrorism. In one such video, the Orange Democratic Movement leader is portrayed as a sympathiser of Al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based and Al-Qaeda-linked rag-tag militia that has declared war on Kenya.
In a secret recording held by Channel 4, Turnbull talked of the extent of the work they did for Kenyatta. Asked on what they have done in Kenya, he replied, "We have rebranded the entire party twice, written their manifesto, done to rounds of 50,000 or so surveys... Then we'd write all the speeches, and we'd stage the whole thing. So just about every element of his campaign."
The CEO, Alexander Nix, spoke of how they influence outcomes of elections. "We'll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we'll have the whole thing recorded, we'll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet," Nix is quoted by Channel 4 as saying.
According to Turnbull, such damaging information is discreetly pushed into the internet and social media. "we just put information into the bloodstream of the internet, and then, and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again... like a remote control. It has to happen without anyone thinking, 'that's propaganda', because the moment you think 'that's propaganda', the next question is, 'who's put that out?'".
This damning information was elicited by a Channel 4 reporter who had posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get a political candidate elected in Sri Lanka. In light of this, Cambridge Analytica have gone on the defensive. Cambridge Analytica said the report had "grossly misrepresented" the conversations caught on camera.
Mr Nix said that the report was a "misrepresentation of facts" and that the company had been "deliberately entrapped". Whatever way, the role of Cambridge Analytica in swaying votes cannot be doubted.