Yesterday, 19 March, UK-based Channel 4 News uploaded a video of their undercover investigation on Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm well-known for crediting itself with US president Donald Trump's 2016 election win
According to Channel 4, one of their reporters posed as a fixer for a wealthy client in Sri Lanka hoping to get some candidates elected.
The reporter met with Cambridge Analytica's chief executive Alexander Nix, managing director Mark Turnbull, and chief data officer Dr. Alex Tayler in a series of meetings at hotels in London between November 2017 and January 2018.
In the exposé, the data firm said they have worked in elections worldwide
The Channel 4 video came days after New York Times and The Observer revealed that Cambridge Analytica exploited data from more than 50 million Facebook profiles to predict the behaviour of American voters.
However, Channel 4's video highlighted the company's work outside the US instead. According to a Channel 4 report, Nix admitted that the data firm has secretly campaigned in elections around the world.
Furthermore, the executives also said in the video they could send Ukrainian women to seduce a rival candidate, pose as a wealthy land developer to bribe a candidate, and influence voters with propaganda.
According to Cambridge Analytica's website, it has offices in New York, Washington, London, Sao Paulo, and Malaysia's Kota Damansara.
At one of the meetings, Turnbull and Tayler admitted that Cambridge Analytica is able to "segment the population to give them messaging about issues that they care about" in a few countries, including Malaysia
About five minutes into the video, Tayler explained that Cambridge Analytica collects data of people in order to give them messages, language, and imagery that they care about and are likely to engage with.
"We use that in America, and we use that in Africa, that's what we do as a company," Tayler said in the video.
"We've done it in Mexico, we've done it in Malaysia, we're now moving into Brazil," Turnbull added, before mentioning Australia and China as well.
Back in 2016, Nix spoke to a summit in New York about how Cambridge Analytica campaigned for US Senator Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential election.
Turnbull's claim that the firm has "done it in Malaysia" is not unfounded according to its website, where the firm detailed how it contributed to BN's Kedah victory in Malaysia's 13th general election (GE13)
The firm supported BN with a targeted campaign highlighting Kedah's school improvements since 2008.
As a result, BN won Kedah in GE13 by taking 21 out of 36 state seats, and 10 out of the 15 parliamentary seats.
However, in March 2017, Malay Mail Online reported that SCL denied doing election work in Malaysia
Azrin Zizal, who was reported by Sarawak Report as a former BN political adviser, told Malay Mail Online that the SCL branch under him has not done any election work in the country. The branch's address listed on the SCL website is the same as the one provided on Cambridge Analytica's website.
Previously, Azrin told The Star that based on a person's choice of sofas, SCL can perceive the person's attitudinal stand and therefore react to a certain message construct.
On 18 March, The Malaysian Insight also visited the 'firm's branch' in Kota Damansara, which was in a gated neighbourhood
Property owner of the address listed on the firm's website told The Malaysian Insight that he has been living there for four years and was not aware that his address was listed on Cambridge Analytica's website.
He also confirmed that the office does not exist in the address.
In light of the claims made in Channel 4's video, deputy chairman of strategy and policy of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) Wan Saiful Wan Jan is questioning the role of Cambridge Analytica in GE13
Channel NewsAsia reported that Wan Saiful called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to "explain if he used Cambridge Analytica to manipulate voters" in GE13.
Furthermore, Malay Mail Online reported that former Deputy Prime Minister and current president of PPBM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin denied having knowledge of BN working with Cambridge Analytica in the last general elections. Muhyiddin was BN's election director for GE13.
"This is the first time I'm hearing of them. I have no knowledge," he said.
What do you think about Cambridge Analytica's claims that it has worked in Malaysia? Let us know in the comments below.