Raymond Duch, Fellow of Nuffield College and Director of the Centre for Experimental Social Sciences, is the latest academic to be implicated in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
Duch, a “prominent social scientist” was revealed to have worked for Cambridge Analytica parent company SCL Elections in a recent article by Dr Emma Briant, a propaganda academic and Senior Researcher for the Netflix film The Great Hack.
Duch’s work for the company reportedly involved “data analytics on public opinion surveys.” Briant cites the projects as concerning Argentine local elections and being “undertaken in two parts, between fall 2014 to February 2015.” Further work was proposed by SCL in May 2015 but did not go ahead.
Further to this, Dr Briant states: “I have seen an email from 6th June 2015, when Raymond Duch wrote to Alexander Nix [then CEO of Cambridge Analytica] saying Duch’s colleague ‘e-mailed yesterday and indicated you were waiting on something from me regarding Argentina. I must have dropped the ball on this — can you remind me what you need and I’ll get it to you asap.’”
The Oxford professor claims his work had “nothing to do with the Argentinian presidential elections” refusing to “comment on specific clients”.
Raymond Duch failed to respond to Cherwell’s request for comment, whilst the University and Nuffield college declined to make any statement.
Freedom of Information requests were also sent to the University of Oxford, but have since been declined as Duch’s work was conducted on behalf of his company D&K Analytics Services LTD, not Nuffield College. In response, Dr Briant has asserted that “there are clear links between Prof Duch’s projects and his work at Nuffield he could not have done the work for CA without drawing on his Nuffield work”.
Briant notes that the Centre for Experimental Social Sciences also operates in Santiago, Chile, potentially giving Duch Latin American expertise which would make him an attractive target for Cambridge Analytica.
In addition, Raymond Duch recently hosted a workshop at the College, on the subject of “Why I was not worried about Cambridge Analytica (and you should not have been either)”.
Dr Briant insists that “Oxford University can’t hide its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, nor can it hide its Argentine connection”.
She provided Cherwell with the following comment: “Academics hold a position of trust and command an authoritative voice in the most important debates of our time, that carries with it a public responsibility too, both for the academic and the university.”
Her statement went on to stress the importance of transparency from an academic institutions: “Students also have a right to know their teachers are gaining the experience underpinning their expertise – and therefore their teaching – in ethical ways.
“Importantly, similar could happen at any university, while Oxford University should be criticised for its lack of transparency here, how is anyone meant to evaluate involvement in influence companies when they remain so opaque – activities are often siloed, hidden with NDA’s, funded by dark money or using shell companies.
“The UK Parliament’s Fake News Inquiry highlighted my concerns about this and demands for transparency and regulation of strategic communications, but the government has so far failed to take this forward.
“We must remember the lessons of the Cambridge Analytica scandal were not just for Facebook, the scandal exposed vulnerabilities in our electoral laws, lobbying, and in a lawless and rapidly expanding industry seeking to exploit them.”
Research into SCL Elections and Cambridge Analytica has revealed that the companies sought links with multiple academics, most prominently, Dr Alexander Kogan. The Cambridge professor built the app “thisisyourdigitallife” which is employed to collect data on Facebook users.
Duch’s own research is also related to electoral data, focusing on social media election forecasting.
Recent projects have tried to predict Texas congressional district elections and the 2019 India Lok Sabha election.
The connections between big data and academic establishments continue to appear, with Freedom of Information requests revealing the University of Sheffield received “a proposal document” from Cambridge Analytica.
Dr Briant is researching Cambridge Analaytica for her upcoming book ‘Propaganda Machine: Inside Cambridge Analytica and the Digital Influence Industry’.
This article was amended on the afternoon of the 24th January 2020 to better reflect Alexander Nix’s comments on SCL Election’s involvement in Argentine elections. What was formerly termed an “admission” of involvement with an anti-Kirchner campaign, was in fact an acknowledgement of discussion of such a campaign being a possible undertaking. More on this can be read here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcumeds/363/36309.htm