Joseph Muscat at a rally in the run-up to the 2013 election
A landmark report by the UK Parliament into how fake news and disinformation spread through social media can influence elections has flagged potential influence by big data firm SCL into Malta’s 2013 general election.
The report – drafted by the House of Commons select committee for digital, culture, media and sport – says MPs have “evidence” showing SCL had been advising the Labour Party for several years before the 2013 election. The evidence also allegedly shows that Henley & Partners CEO Christian Kalin actually contacted SCL to set up a meeting with then Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat back in June 2011.
The report links to a blogpost by Manuel Delia, published back in April, which makes the same allegations.
Cambridge Analytica was plunged into controversy earlier this year after a company whistleblower accused them of illegally harvesting Facebook data of millions of people in order to gain exclusive insight into voters’ habits. Cambridge Analytica would then use this data to micro-target political ads in favour of the political party or campaign team they were working for.
Cambridge Analytica has worked in several elections – most famously for Donald Trump in the United States and in the Brexit referendum.
Rumours of its involvement in Malta first surfaced on the blog of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in November 2013 – several years before the controversy went global. And the rumours have refused to die down, even though the Labour Party has repeatedly denied ever having contact with SCL, its sister company Cambridge Analytica or any other similar data harvesting firms.
The report by the House of Commons committee notes that Malta’s sale-of-citizenship is operated by Henley & Partners, which has worked with SCL to influence elections around the world.
Henley & Partners CEO Christian Kalin (right) had worked with SCL to influence elections around the world
“We were told that, behind much of SCL Elections’ campaigning work was the hidden hand of Christian Kalin, Chairman of Henley and Partners, who arranged for investors to supply the funding to pay for campaigns, and then organised SCL to write their manifesto and oversee the whole campaign process,” the report reads. “In exchange, Alexander Nix told us, Henley and Partners would gain exclusive passport rights for that country, under a citizenship-by-investment programme. Alexander Nix and Christian Kalin have been described as having a ‘Faustian pact’. With the exclusive passport rights came a government that would be conducive to Mr. Kalin and his clients. Alexander Nix told the Committee that, at times, SCL Elections would undertake eight, nine or 10 elections a year, “and we are not limited by geography, so this really could be from the Caribbean to Asia to Africa to Europe or everywhere”.
The report notes that Caruana Galizia was a harsh critics of the sale-of-citizenship scheme and that Joseph Muscat promoted this scheme in Dubai a few days after the journalist’s assassination last October. It also somehow notes how billionaire Tory peer Lord Ashcroft had recently urged British businesses so as to open up branches in Malta to have a post-Brexit presence in the EU.
What the report fails to mention is that an attempt by Alexander Nix to influence a Maltese election has already been confirmed. The PN’s former secretary general Paul Borg Olivier confirmed with Lovin Malta a few months ago that Nix had approached him a few months before the 2013 election with a proposal related to the targeting of voters through behavioural dynamics.
Borg Olivier said he had instantly turned down Nix’s offer because he had never heard of the company, and because the timing of the offer – so soon before the election – seemed suspicious.