POLITICS-SOCIAL MEDIA: MANILA – Report: UK firm at heart of Facebook data scandal helped Duterte win 2016 polls

President Rodrigo Duterte, in his speech during his visit at Camp in General Teodulfo Bautista in Barangay Bus-Bus, Jolo, Sulu on Dec. 1, 2017. Richard Madelo/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — A London-based behavioral research and strategic communication company assisted President Rodrigo Duterte’s victory in the May 2016 national elections, according to a report.

Strategic Communications Laboratories or SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, helped portray Duterte as a “strong, no-nonsense man of action” on social media, according to a report from South China Morning Post.

Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, is at the center of the Facebook data scandal linked to the 2016 US presidential elections. According to reports, several Cambridge Analytica employees have been hired for the campaign of Trump as analysts.

Using a Facebook quiz, the firm has improperly harvested information of millions of users. Facebook revealed today that Cambridge Analytica may have the data of up to 87 million of its users—37 million more than previously reported.

READ: Psychometrics: How Facebook data helped Trump find his voters

The SCL Group, meanwhile, reportedly helped in rebranding Duterte for his presidential bid, SCMP reported.

Duterte’s campaign team originally branded the then Davao City mayor as “both kind and honorable” according to the SCL Group’s website content.

RELATED: Facebook: A tool for democracy or global business?

The London-based company has removed the content but SCMP posted an archived version of the report.

“But SCL’s research showed that many groups within the electorate were more likely to be swayed by qualities such as toughness and decisiveness,” the web content said.

“SCL used the cross-cutting issue of crime to rebrand the client as a strong, no-nonsense man of action, who would appeal to the true values of the voters,” it added.

The web content, however, did not identify Duterte as its Philippine client but the brief pointed to the former Davao City mayor.

Late last year, Facebook faced criticism for sending out teams to train politicians around the world, including Duterte, on how to use the platform as a campaign tool.

The MSNBC reported that in January 2016, Facebook “flew in three employees who spent a week holding training session with candidates that include Duterte.”

This was two months since Duterte announced that he will run for president despite previous repeated denials.

Malacañang, however, has shrugged off reports linking Facebook to Duterte’s presidential campaign. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that all candidates tapped Facebook as a campaign tool.

“All candidates did so, unfortunately for his detractors, President Duterte appeared to have been the best candidate who utilized Facebook the most,” Roque said. / Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – April 5, 2018 – 10:19am

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