NEWS

Local firm denies role in Cambridge Analytica’s GE14 campaign for BN

6 1月 2020, 5:34 凌晨

Updated 6 months ago

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Local consultancy firm Berkshire Media has refuted any part in Cambridge Analytica or its parent company SCL Group’s alleged controversial pitch to help BN win GE14.

A recent data leak by a former Cambridge Analytica staffer revealed that the British company had bid for a US$2 million strategic communications deal with Petronas in 2014.

The Petronas contract was intended as a “trial run” for Cambridge Analytica’s campaign to help BN and Umno win GE14.

Berkshire’s founder and present managing director Shahid Shayaa was named in the leak as once being SCL’s representative in Malaysia.

In a statement, Berkshire said it was indeed approached by SCL back in 2014 about the Petronas contract but the deal never materialised.

“We wish to clarify that we were approached by SCL Commercial unit in 2014, before the existence of Cambridge Analytica.

“The joint proposal to Petronas was not for any political campaign, but merely to improve stakeholder relations and communications for the national oil company in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Due to budget constraints by Petronas, the project never went ahead. At the time, we were already serving Petronas and other companies in Malaysia on other projects,” it said.

Berkshire stated that it stopped dealing with Cambridge Analytica and SCL after 2014. As for GE14, Berkshire said it had no links to either the Undi Rosak or BN’s campaign.

“We have no involvement directly or indirectly with the Undi Rosak campaign or for BN’s GE14 campaign in Malaysia as alleged by (the) media, and at no point did we provide any data for BN’s GE14 election campaign,” it said.

“As such, we have no control or knowledge over SCL or Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in Malaysia beyond the year 2014, or for any GE14 election campaigns,” it added.

Dubbed the “Merdeka Papers”, the data leak revealed that Cambridge Analytica had intended to use information from Petronas as well as Malaysia’s Special Branch for its GE14 political propaganda campaign for BN.

Leaked emails showed how Cambridge Analytica executives had access to former BN cabinet ministers and gave a presentation to Selangor BN candidates prior to GE14.

Cambridge Analytica shut down in May 2018 after it was exposed to have used Facebook data to manipulate voter sentiments.

The controversial company is best known for being involved in Donald Trump’s successful 2016 presidential campaign in the US.

Here is Berkshire Media’s full statement in response to the Merdeka Papers:

Berkshire Consulting and Management Services was incorporated in January 2012. After a change in shareholding and directors in 2013, the company was renamed Berkshire Media, which focuses on social analytics and digital marketing services.

To date, Berkshire Media has served more than 100 brands, companies and partners in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia, analysing millions of data and producing thousands of reports across various industries.

We wish to clarify that we were approached by SCL Commercial unit in 2014, before the existence of Cambridge Analytica. The joint proposal to Petronas was not for any political campaign, but merely to improve stakeholder relations and communications for the national oil company in Sabah and Sarawak.

Due to budget constraints by Petronas, the project never went ahead. At the time, we were already serving Petronas and other companies in Malaysia on other projects.

We have no involvement directly or indirectly with the Undi Rosak campaign or for BN’s GE14 campaign in Malaysia as alleged by media, and at no point did we provide any data for BN’s GE14 election campaign.

As a Malaysian agency with no political or external funding, we serve the needs and requirements to all our clients and partners around the world.

We also serve the government of the day. In September 2018 we were asked to present to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad a sentiment analysis report of Malaysia’s socio-economic landscape 100 days after GE14 in 2018, which was publicised in the media. 

We were also asked to present to Daim Zainuddin prior to GE14 on the political sentiment landscape and probability of Pakatan Harapan winning. This was non-commercial work and based on social data.

SCL Commercial unit came to us in 2014 to expand its services in Malaysia and the region. Little did we know that SCL has also made parallel contacts with other parties and individuals, some of whom are also serving in the present government. As such, we have no control or knowledge over SCL or Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in Malaysia beyond the year 2014, or for any GE14 election campaigns.

Our data-driven methodology has no resemblance to Cambridge Analytica or SCL. We have developed our proprietary machine-learning text algorithm to analyse sentiments and emotions, with a high degree of accuracy at over 90 percent. Our analysis and insights have been used by our clients to improve their services, products, as well as communications or marketing strategy.

We wish to state that legal action will be taken against those spreading defamatory stories or libellous material that impact our company or brand, directors and personnel. 

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