Fake news inquiry publishes evidence from Essex expert

  • Date

    Tue 17 Apr 18

Emma Briant

Parliament’s inquiry into fake news has published evidence from senior journalism lecturer, Dr Emma L Briant, which raises concerns data analytics was used to target voters 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.

These interviews and explanatory essays by Dr Briant have been published by the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee tasked with investigating fake news.

Damian Collins MP, chair of the Committee, said: “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)."

In one interview published by the Committee, 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, Mr Collins said the evidence suggests they benefited from the company’s work.

Mr Collins said: “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.”