News by VICE

Cambridge Analytica's tools turned “kind” Duterte into a "no-nonsense" strongman

"SCL used the cross-cutting issue of crime to rebrand the client as a strong, no-nonsense man of action."

by David Gilbert
Apr 5 2018, 10:26am

Getty Images

Cambridge Analytica’s parent company helped elect Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte by transforming his image from “kind and honorable” to a “strong, no-nonsense man of action,” the South China Morning Post reported Thursday.

The newspaper uncovered archived pages from the website of Strategic Communications Lab that have since been taken offline. Though the pages don’t mention Duterte by name, the brief does refer to the former mayor of Davao.

“In the run-up to national elections the incumbent client was widely perceived as both kind and honorable, qualities his campaign team thought were potentially election-winning,” the company said. “But SCL’s research showed that many groups within the electorate were more likely to be swayed by qualities such as toughness and decisiveness. SCL used the cross-cutting issue of crime to rebrand the client as a strong, no-nonsense man of action, who would appeal to the true values of the voters.”

Since his 2016 victory, Duterte has lived-up to the strongman image, conducting a bloody war on drugs that has killed more than 20,000 people.

SCL still claims to have an office in the Philippines but it no longer describes what work it does in the country on its website.

SCL did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

The archived web pages are not the only evidence of Cambridge Analytica’s work in the Philippines.

Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer Wednesday revealed more than 1.1 million Facebook users in the Philippines had their data harvested by an app developed in conjunction with Cambridge Analytica.

READ: Cambridge Analytica harvested millions more Facebook profiles than we thought

A year before the May 2016 vote, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix visited the Philippines for the purposes of “research,” he told the Manila Times.

During a talk he gave in the capital, Nix spoke about "new strategies and tactics that are products of behavioral microtargeting, psychographic profiling, predictive analytics, and many other modern tools.”

Just as he boasted in an undercover sting operation broadcast by Channel 4 News last month, Nix in 2015 said SCL had seen a “100 percent success rate” in more than 100 election campaigns across Asia, Africa, India and western Europe, adding that the firm’s methods could get a “fundamentally flawed” candidate elected by maximising their “likeable traits.”

CA has been accused of using these techniques in conjunction with data secretly harvested from more than 70 million U.S. Facebook users to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

Cover image: Philippines' president-elect Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a press conference in Davao City, in southern island of Mindanao on May 26, 2016. (MANMAN DEJETO/AFP/Getty Images)

Cambridge Analytica
Strategic Communications Lab