Friday 14 December 2018
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Data, Foreign Policy And Democracy: Did Facebook And Cambridge Analytica Attack Nigeria? — By Ebisike Ebube George

Data, Foreign Policy And Democracy: Did Facebook And Cambridge Analytica Attack Nigeria? — By Ebisike Ebube George

The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the constitution so the second will not become the legalised version of the first

– Thomas Jefferson

I will commence with emphasising the impact of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and its valuable application in the expanding and strategic sustainable development sector, known as Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D). The proliferation of mobile phones and devices in the developing and developed world continues to power the internet cum communication and broadband access is becoming more available globally. ICT by virtue of big data has shown to be the fastest, broadest, deepest technical change phenomenon experienced in international development. ICT permeates every tangible development sector supporting the farming, micro- entrepreneurial, healthcare, banking, food, technology, jobs, education, manufacturing, space and aerospace industries etc. It is also impacting our quest to reduce the global carbon footprint and facilitating sociopolitical advancement. But it is also linked with digital inequalities, environmental degradation in the form of e-waste and other criminal activities such as identity theft, bank fraud, Fake news deployment, electoral meddling, militaristic mind control, trolling, cyber-bullying and cyber/data weaponisation. ICT is a constantly evolving field especially as technology continues to expand  the realm of possibilities and Moore’s law sustainable charts the increased boundaries of computing power.

As newsfeeds on our mobile phones and on social media as Facebook shared the plummeting of its stocks to the tune of over US$55 bn at the NYSE in recent weeks, the world was pelted with amazement in the form of the return of over 100 Dapchi school girls kidnapped 6 weeks ago in Dapchi, Yobe state Nigeria. They were returned to their parents by Boko Haram insurgents who seemed handsomely rewarded for their dastardly criminal action. This happenstance is recorded as a first of its kind capture-and-release negotiations between the DSS and Nigeria government without a ransom paid according to the Minister of Information, Dr. Lia Mohammed. As the news of the Dapchi girl’s return broke on CNN, its presenter Robyn Curnow (@RobynCurnowCNN) termed the situation  a “cash raising exercise” between boko haram and the current Nigeria administration. But as at the time also news had been awash globally for the previous several days on SCL Group, SCL Elections ,UK the parent firms of Cambridge Analytica, a privately held company that combines big data mining and data analysis with strategic communication. It then weaponizes and deploys this data cache for electoral process in any country from a remote environment and by covertly locating its operatives in that geographical border. Its CEO, Alexander Nix has been suspended amid news of its scandalous activities and links with the Trump administration’s success in the 2016 US elections. It had also meddled in elections of over 200 nations and particularly in Nigeria’s 2007 electoral process and from then Africa’s most populated nation was fair game. Cambridge Analytica’s data geek employee Christopher Wylie’s whistleblew on his employer’s culpability alongside Russia, on influencing the leave EU official campaign (BREXIT), creating psychological profiles of about 230 million Americans and they even came close to working for the pentagon….a scenario described as “Nixon on steroids”. Findings showed that Steve Bannon the now estranged President Trump senior aid and Robert Mercer, the secretive billionaire, US hedge fund owner and Republican donor were Cambridge Analytica strategists and donor respectively. The mission was to craft and bring big data and social media together to produce tactical military methodology in the form of ‘information operations”. A potent weapon they soon perfected using Nigeria, as well as other countries in Africa and no sooner turned their experimental findings on the electoral populace in the US. Wylie told harrowing tales of the hijacking of Facebook due to careless oversight. The Facebook ecosystem’s likes, share and pokes were then reaugmented on the platform for covert war purposes. Cambridge Analytica crafted itself as the propulsion epicenter to attack electoral front lines from all directions.

In a critical six page past letter to former President and Commander-in-Chief Dr. Goodluck E. Jonathan dated 6th, June 2015, I brought my concerns forward and predicted this current happening and global news headline. Stating with clarity Facebook’s complicity, then  Cambridge Analytica  was still in the shadows whilst the orchestration of attacks using data as warfare against Nigeria was on-going. Page. 5, paragraph three of the six page letter expressed thus “Speaking on intelligence, it should not come as news to you that Google has too much info on us all and reads all our emails. Microsoft has warned and declared war on Google for this. So we are very vulnerable (the Punch Wednesday, Nov.6th, 2013 on page 14). We need to strategically build ourselves inwardly in order to protect the unchecked outflow of our data, that it may not be used against us. Currently it is and that is the reality and that is why Nigeria is vulnerable!! Yet it is shocking that the behemoth firm Google and even “Facebook” with such huge global data warehoused and processed have been analyzed by Eric Jackson, a business technology writer and analyst for Forbes as having the possibility to disappear in the next 5-8 years”. It is noteworthy to add that news has broken on CNN that Ex-Obama official Bret Bruen and also director global engagement at the UN security council warned of Russian meddling in US politics and elections through a vast use of troll farms and its army of hacktivists.

Sixty Russian diplomats representing 13% of their diplomatic and espionage workforce (spy web) according to CNN have been expelled from the US as at yesterday March 26th for nuclear poison attacks in the United Kingdom besides its data thefts, meddling and social media attacks. This is also a line that has also been towed by America’s other 20 NATO European allies. We await the Nigeria Federal government to put its foot down. But then in thinking and acting strategically to protect Nigeria’s national security space, all the above has spurred the Foundation for Ethnic And Religious Tolerance (FERET) a duly registered organisation in Nigeria, with global recognition and track record for championing the protection and preservation of Nigeria’s territorial, diplomatic and economic integrity as well as the right of all its constituent ethnic nationalities to co-exist in harmony and work to advance productively her ship of state amongst the comity of nations has acted in national interest. At the FERET office and data centre after extensive research and deliberation by its in-house forensic scientists, it had identified the injurious activities of Cambridge Analytica’s (CA) Cyber-warfare and breach of Nigeria’s national security to cause anarchy. SCL Group and its subsidiary Cambridge Analytica, based in the United Kingdom and by extension Facebook will be challenged to defend their actions in a court of competent jurisdiction in the coming weeks.

Furthermore, in the published report of Sunday 18th, March 2018, 09.44 GMT by Carole Cadwalladr of the Guardian newspaper, UK and additional reporting by Observer’s Ann Marlowe, it has been brought to light that Facebook which has the primary responsibility of protecting the privacy rights and data resources stemming from the use of its global platform failed to uphold its brand promise and therefore has impinged and devastatingly exposed the peaceful and hardworking Nigeria people and their sovereignty to cyber predators. Facebook  by allowing SCL Group and its corporate proxy Cambridge Analytica (CA) to mine and manipulate the data of some of its over 16 million Nigerian users and their valuable information cache to cause electoral mistrust, security breaches, economic disharmony and by extension wage war on the Nigerian people and state was a terribly undertaking. This is totally obnoxious and unacceptable as Nigeria houses most of Africa’s presence on the global social media platform – Facebook as also other powerful social platforms. In a paragraph at the mid point of the story in the UK Guardian’s reportage it explains that:

“The Special Council Agent Robert Mueller’s investigation traced the first stage of the Russian operations of meddling to disrupt the 2016 US Election back to 2014, when the Russian state and CEO of LukOil – Vagit Alekperov made what appears to be it’s first concerted efforts to harness the power of America’s social media platforms including Facebook to skew voter outcomes. Cambridge Analytica (CA) provided the Russian Oil firm with its datasets, capabilities and methodology. Documents focused on”election disruption techniques”. The first slide of its presentation by Christopher Wylie illustrated how a “rumour campaign” spread fear in the 2007 “Nigeria” election in which the company worked – by spreading the idea that the “election could be rigged”! The Whistle blower Christopher Wylie working on his PhD and a capable data scientists and geek emphasized Facebook’s lacklustre attitude to protect a trove of 50 million vital data sets inclusive of Nigeria’s, which was mined and used to perpetrate discord while Nigerians were at the polls chatting their nation’s peaceful and progressive future. A Nigerian oil billionaire is known to have hired CA’s services surreptitiously to work for the GEJ Campaign in 2015 unbeknownst to the president at the time, while the Buhari and APC hired David Axelrod of AKPD a former strategist to president Obama to man its campaign onslaught. AKPD operations have not been investigated yet to determine if it used similar methods. In the light of CA’s machinations of behaviourial micro-targeting and use of fake news in the context of election attacks on Nigeria and other proxy operations as well as the Machiavellian intent and actions it undertook to propagate dangerous misinformation, CA further unleashed a recipe for mayhem, death and destruction in Nigeria, a sovereign state. The pre-2007 and election reports recorded various kilings and maimings that have evolved to this day and can directly be traced to the misinformation activities of warfare which can be extracted and will be evident in the Cambridge Analytica (CA) data flows. The US government is currently investigating data activities of the culpable firms inclusive of Facebook. The mercenary tactics of CA and Facebook’s lack of attention to data detail, transparency and guilt was expressed on CNN on 20-03-18 by Damian Collins, British Conservative MP and CA’s Chris Wylie in the statement: ” Facebook could see what was happening” clarifying its lack of professional action to discharge its duties to its users, thereby being complicit. It is upon this premise that FERET, a reputed civil society organisation is unequivocally prompted to seek redress and take legal action against the parties SCL Group, SCL Elections, Cambridge Analytica (CA) and Facebook according to sources familiar with the matter. Paul-Olivier Dehaye a data expert based in Switzerland rhetorted that it is apparent Facebook is “abusive by design” just as billionaire inventor of Whatsapp Brian Acton opened up a twitter tirade tagged #DeleteFacebook and #DeleteFacebookNow. Facebook has thrived from support by the US national security establishment, who have continually failed to check the despecable excesses of political weaponry deployed against its own people and now Nigerians and other African countries as its beta stage guinea pigs for psyops (psychological operations). SCL Elections has used a suite of meddling tools in over 200 elections worldwide according to reports.The operations of SCL Group through its subsidiary CA involved the changing of people’s minds not through persuasion but through “information dominance”, a set of of techniques that includes rumour, disinformation and fake news. These cocktail of dubious election activities were carried out mostly in underdeveloped democracies given that these nations were unequipped to defend themselves, thereby causing precarious destructive unrest and consequently costing lives.

It is safely comparative to view the use of Novichok, the nuclear/nerve agent poision by the Russian state against the ex-double agent Mr. Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia on UK soil as being of equal and direct measure  to unleashing cutting-edge cyber-weaponry on Nigeria in the form of “information operations” by CA, a method which ranks alongside land, sea, air and space in the US Military doctrine of the five dimensional battle spaces. These actions were carried out on Nigeria with an intent to cause grave national harm and trigger failed statehood by all measure. Unfortunately Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder of Facebook who visited Nigeria last year to express his pleasure of Nigeria’s huge participation on his social platform did not make a statement until about three days later or thereabout. Before Zuckerberg’s outspeak, Sheryll Sandberg had equally been ultra quiet.

After coordinated advisory sought by FERET with reputable organisations as the Information Marketing and Management Institute (IMMI) it is clear that compensation or tangible restitution for this dastardly is the way to go. The Nigerian people today due to these illicit and covert militaristic actions suffer torture, increased ethnic mistrust, a rise in terrorism that has perpetuated a scourge of displaced people and forced migrations leading to modern day slavery as witnessed in Libya as also a variation of economic misfortunes. The intelligence reports, misinformation and by extension #fakenews that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which lead to its 2003 invasion by the US and its allies have left that nation economically  desolate and near ungovernable fifteen years after. The middle east suffers today and offshoots of its instability are felt in Syria, Yemen and globally.

Mobile proliferation in the knowledge economy age has been a blessing and a curse influencing democratic ideals, foreign policy, diplomacy and data perception. CA tried to capitalise on our vulnerabilities, profiling us for more conspiratorial thinking, triggering our militaristic proclivities and disposition to act violently in an election cycle. These unlawful actions as reaffirmed by Wylie on his CNN Christine Amanpour (@Camanpour) interview of 10:20am 27th, March which explained and accentuated Cambridge Analytica’s methods caused terrible national breaches, economic manipulations which led to increased electoral spending alongside violent disruptions and other geo-socioeconomic maladies. Wylie underscored that these actions are those of a global enemy to peaceful co-existence.

Thank you.

Ebisike Ebube George, aScientist, Analyst and Researcher writes from Abuja

SAYELBA TIMES is an independent news group that focuses on original investigative reporting about critical issues facing all Niger Delta States including other parts of the world. Our contents are positive, creative, truthful and relevant.

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