Mark Turnbull avoiding questions from Channel 4 News
Turnbull's profile at the University of Exeter Strategy and Security Institute boasts of his record in achieving “campaign success via measurable behavioural change” in “over 100 campaigns in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean”.
Caught on camera
In March 2018, Mark Turnbull was caught on camera by Channel 4 News boasting alongside fellow CA boss Alexander Nix about tactics they could deploy to help clients win political campaigns. Turnbull described how, having obtained damaging material on opponents, Cambridge Analytica can discreetly push it onto social media and the internet:
- "We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet, and then, and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again… like a remote control. It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘that’s propaganda’, because the moment you think ‘that’s propaganda’, the next question is, ‘who’s put that out?’.”
Alexander Nix suggested one possible scenario, in which Turnbull would pose as a wealthy developer looking to exchange campaign finance for land. “I’m a master of disguise,” Turnbull said.
Nix has since been suspended following claims the firm advocated bribery, entrapment and the use of sex workers.
Mark Turnbull was one of two experts from the company’s SCL parent group who attended a special event hosted by the Foreign Office at the FCO's Wilton Park Conference Centre in Sussex in February 2017. The three-day forum was opened by Jonathan Allen, then acting director general of Defence and Intelligence at the Foreign Office. He is now the UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, based in New York.
The ‘Diplomacy in the Information Age’ conference featured Turnbull and colleague David Wilkinson making a presentation on how to use data in political campaigns, citing Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential run. The title of their lecture was listed as “examining the application of data in the recent US Presidential election” and aimed to “explore new opportunities for the FCO to make better use of data in diplomacy, but also emerging threats that challenge the current ways of working”. That raises questions over whether the British government was already aware of the mass harvesting of Facebook data which sparked the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
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