Bongbong Marcos requested Cambridge Analytica to rebrand family image: whistleblower

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 16 2020 06:34 AM | Updated as of Jul 16 2020 06:54 AM

Photo from Sen. Imee Marcos' Facebook page

MANILA - Defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. allegedly requested Cambridge Analytica to rebrand his family's image on social media, a former employee of the now-defunct British political consulting firm bared Wednesday.

The Marcos camp, however, denied the claim and said it is exploring legal options including the possible filing of libel charges. 

Brittany Kaiser, a former Cambridge Analytica business development director-turned-whistleblower, said the company discussed Marcos Jr.'s alleged attempt to revise history since its CEO saw it as a massive financial opportunity.

"So we had a request straight from Bongbong Marcos to do a family rebranding. This was brought in through internal staff in Cambridge Analytica and was debated," she told Rappler in an interview

"There were some people that didn't want to touch it and there were others, like our CEO Alexander Nix, that saw it as a massive financial opportunity and asked to write the proposal anyway," she added.

Kaiser said the Philippines had enough user information to conduct microtargeting, which is to strategically transmit tailored political message to a certain group of people.

"So, as you call it historical revisionism, that's exactly what it is, but it's done in a data-driven and scientific way. So you undertake just enough research to figure out what people believe about a certain family, individual, politician and then you figure out what could convince them to feel otherwise. And you run tests until you actually start to see people's opinions and attitude changing," she said.

Kaiser, who exposed Cambridge Analytica's business practices in her book "Targeted" and subject of the Netflix documentary "The Great Hack," said that deliberately revising history was "extremely dangerous."

"In a particular instance where the history of a family and an individual is important for the public to know, then this type of work is extremely dangerous," she said.

Marcos spokesman Vic Rodriguez, meanwhile, said the Rappler story about Marcos approaching Cambridge Analytica "is patently fake, false, and misleading."

"Former Senator Marcos never reached out to them and, like most of us, was only made aware of Cambridge Analytica's existence through reports of its controversial activities in the media," Rodriguez said in a statement issued early Thursday. 

Rodriguez also questioned the timing of the release of the story, saying it was "nothing more than a marketing ploy meant to drum up support for their beleaguered news blog site."

"BBM is consulting with his legal team and will be exploring the legal options to fight this injustice. The filing of libel charges is on the table," he added. 

Marcos Jr. is the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos who imposed martial law in 1972, described by survivors as a dark chapter in Philippine history.

Reports from global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said around 100,000 people were victims of martial law, with 3,000 killed, 34,000 tortured and 70,000 arrested.

The Marcoses also amassed an estimated $5 to $10 billion or more than P500 billion in ill-gotten wealth, based on a study of the World Bank-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Stolen Asset Recovery report.

The Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the agency tasked with recovering billions of dollars plundered by Marcos and his allies, had recovered a total of P170 billion in the past 30 years.

However, the legal battle to recover the other alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family and their cronies is far from over.

In February 2020, the Sandiganbayan had dismissed the P102-billion forfeiture complaint against late Ferdinand Marcos, his widow Imelda, and their cronies over insufficient evidence.

The data scandal in Cambridge Analytica came to light in March 2018 when its former employee Christopher Wylie revealed the company had harvested private information of some 87 million users on Facebook.

The company, which was created in 2013 with a $15 million support from billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer, ceased operations few months later following revelations of data misuse.