The Interactive Cambridge Analytica Map:

 

 

The Interactive Cambridge Analytica Map is the first project to collate, analyze and map reporting of the worldwide activities of scandal-ridden company Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) and their subsidiary Cambridge Analytica (CA) - a company whose wrongdoing Dr Emma L Briant was central in exposing in 2018. Here she maps reported global reach of all related companies (1989-2018), including clients and projects. It visualizes the expanding scale and spread of their activities over time and allows you to move back and forward in time exploring projects. You can also watch SCL and Cambridge Analytica spread 'live' across the world. Here is why Dr Briant created this...

FOCUS ON THE INFLUENCE INDUSTRY

Tens of millions of dollars are spent on disinformation research tracking online campaign messaging dissemination and consumption on social media. While valuable, this approach is not sufficient alone and often fails to identify industry creators of content, governments, elites or organizations funding it, or their ultimate strategies. We cannot fully understand the problems raised by digital influence campaigns or develop new ways to respond to them without more research into the comparatively under-researched multi-billion dollar influence industry and the politicians, governments and corporate clients who fund it.

This tool is intended to be used by journalists, NGOs, policymakers, scholars and the public to research and better understand Cambridge Analytica and their parent company SCL’s role in shaping our recent history via their worldwide projects for politics, governments and commercial clients. I hope this will inspire further study and ‘maps’ of other companies. If this industry remains opaque and research does not provide an accurate idea even of the scale of the rapidly expanding influence industry, we cannot address the policy challenge on ‘disinformation’, research adequately or equip publics or students for navigating our rapidly transforming digital world.

 

FOCUS ON THE GLOBAL

We also need to better understand the global scale and operations of this industry, its very unequal effects and how global company networks help obscure relationships and activities of influence firms. Journalism tends to focus on the stories it considers 'newsworthy' to its audience, those likely to get most reach. This means in Western countries journalism often neglects the experiences of other parts of the world including developing countries and focuses on the experiences of powerful Western democracies more 'relevant' to its audience's immediate experience - Brexit, Trump... The worst abuses by Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL occurred beyond the economically powerful West, in places without strong civil society or privacy protections.

 

Dr Emma L Briant therefore has put this map together with the invaluable assistance of Ben Staton in order to open your eyes to the world - to Cambridge Analytica's world. 

We both hope this will facilitate the process of illuminating a dark industry and encourage a more global and structural way of understanding the role of influence industry firms. We hope it will encourage more journalism, more research and energize more efforts to take our world back from those who wield hidden power.

 Version 1: 

This represents Version 1 of the map. Importantly, it is not a comprehensive account of the companies' work and there are are gaps where projects are known to Dr Briant but have not yet been reported in the press or may not be demonstrable through already online sources. This first version of the map, while it is the most extensive and first mapping of SCL and Cambridge Analytica's projects is not comprehensive as it is compiled from only open source data and journalistic reporting. It also tracks recorded projects, not the Facebook data breach. The Facebook data breach impacted countries where CA did not yet have known projects and projects occurred in places unaffected by the Facebook data breach.

The intention of this mapping project is both to come some way toward visualizing how extensive the work of this small-medium sized influence firm was and, in so doing, to give a sense of the scale of impact of a wider and rapidly expanding multi-billion dollar influence industry. It should illustrate to policymakers the scale of the challenge.

The sheer quantity of reporting that repeats already reported and minimal information (as opposed to investigative journalism) has created 'noise' and information overload through which it becomes hard to research the company online. Dr Briant hopes this visualization tool will help researchers, activists and public alike worldwide to grasp the scale and nature of the operations of contemporary influence by governments, politicians and private corporations, through this example. She also aims to highlight for journalists and researchers places where only minimal investigation has so far occurred into these projects and to encourage further investigation. 

Our Method:

We have mapped and produced an interactive visualization of open source information and journalistic reporting of activities related to the companies SCL, Cambridge Analytica and pre-bankruptcy affiliates (see a chart of different companies and affiliates here thanks to Wendy Siegelman and Ann Marlowe). Wherever possible, the most reliable, extensive and independent reporting of a project was prioritized. We tried to find reporting of the country of activities, date and client - we tried to attribute the work to the SCL Group affiliated company in the strongest reporting though reporters didn't always use these company names consistently. While there were standout examples of exceptional reporting on Cambridge Analytica (Carole Cadwalladr's research for The Observer was extensive, for instance), in some cases investigative journalism examining the worldwide projects has been incorrect, inconsistent and sometimes minimal or non-existent. In all cases, we cannot and do not here vouch for others' journalism. In a few cases, particularly where there is minimal or no journalistic reporting, the map includes content sourced from SCL's own archived website, online reports or online documents in the 'Hindsight 2020' release.

Dr Briant wishes in these cases to urge readers that they should bear in mind that companies like this one 'spin' and 'cleanse' what they put on their websites making their role sound more minimal/ethical/important/effective. Please consider this where descriptions in the map quote the company themselves in relation to their work.

We link to the source for a key quote. We have done our best to accurately reflect what was reported in the map but if you spot an inconsistency please email us.

We urge readers to write if they have spotted concrete reporting of projects not yet included in the map.

The interactive map was made with the help of an excellent data scientist who produced the visualization pro-bono and who I wish to thank here. I also wish to acknowledge important early-stages assistance from 'Amy' and Lacey Strahm.

Version 2:

This map is not yet definitive and will expand - a lot. Having researched the companies extensively for many years, Dr Briant hopes to 'go live' with Version 2 - a more extensive version of the map, which corrects some previous reporting and gives more detail. This will occur alongside publication of her book which is based on exclusive interviews and a wide range of sources and documents not presently in the public domain. Version 2 of the map will reveal what we know now to be the rest of the iceberg. It will reveal a far greater reach than is currently known with many more projects and clients worldwide you can learn more about in my upcoming book.

 

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