Essex propaganda expert gives evidence to fake news inquiry

  • Date

    Tue 17 Apr 18

Emma Briant

The Government’s inquiry into fake news has heard evidence from senior journalism lecturer, Dr Emma L Briant, which shows unsuspecting voters were targeted with deliberately inflammatory messaging during the Brexit referendum

Dr Briant, from the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, is an expert in propaganda. At the end of last year, as part of her research, she interviewed key individuals connected to the leave campaign and Cambridge Analytica, the company now accused of passing on personal information about Facebook users, without their permission.

Her interviews have been presented to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee tasked with investigating fake news.

In one, Andy Wigmore, Director of Communications for Leave.EU, says he believes the propaganda techniques of the Nazi’s were ‘very clever’ and confirms that exploiting voters concerns about immigration was central to their campaign during the Brexit referendum. He also admits using Cambridge Analytica methods.

Although Leave.EU never formally hired Cambridge Analytica, Damian Collins, chair of the Committee, says it is clear they benefitted from the company’s work. “Dr Emma Briant’s research gives us a unique insight into the private thoughts of key people at Leave.EU and SCL (Cambridge Analytica’s parent company).

“Given the extreme messaging around immigration that was used during the referendum campaign, these statements (from Andy Wigmore) will raise concerns that data analytics was used to target voters who were concerned about this issue, and to frighten them with messaging designed to create an ‘artificial enemy’ for them to act against,” he said.