The Malta Independent 19 March 2019, Tuesday

UK Parliament report says PL met with data mining group, government denies

Kevin Schembri Orland Monday, 18 February 2019, 10:52 Last update: about 28 days ago

A report titled ‘Disinformation and fake news’, the UK’s House of Commons highlighted that SCL Group (which had set up Cambridge Analytica), was introduced to Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat back in 2011. The Maltese government has issued a denial.

An interim report by the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee had originally seen a reaction by the Maltese government last year, saying that unsubstantiated information was used in the report. The final report has now been issued.

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The final report, speaking in general terms, states that data analytics firms have played a key role in elections around the world. “Strategic communications companies frequently run campaigns internationally, which are financed by less than transparent means and employ legally dubious methods. As we wrote in our Interim Report, we raised concerns about the complex web of relationships between the SCL (Strategic Communications Laboratories) group of companies, and “these concerns have been heightened by Alexander Nix and SCL’s own links with organisations involved in the military, defence, intelligence and security realms”.

"We highlighted the following election and referendum campaigns that SCL Elections and associated companies had been involved in: Australia; Brazil; Czech Republic; France; Gambia; Germany; Ghana (2013); Guyana; India; Indonesia; Italy; Kenya (Kenyatta campaigns of 2013 and 2017); Kosovo; Malaysia; Mexico; Mongolia; Niger; Nigeria; Pakistan; Peru; Philippines; Slovakia; St Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Thailand; Trinidad and Tobago; and the UK. We also received testimony that SCL may also have worked on the Mayoral election campaign in Buenos Aires in 2015 for Mauricio Macri."

The report then mentions Malta. “Following publication of our Interim Report, both the High Commissioner of Malta and the Chelgate PR company wrote to the Committee, denying statements in the Interim Report that the Malta Labour Party had had dealings with the SCL Group for several years before the 2013 elections. We understand, however, that SCL certainly had meetings in Malta, that Christian Kalin of Henley & Partners was introduced by SCL to Joseph Muscat in 2011, and that Christian Kalin met with both political parties before 2013.”

The above paragraphs are included under the sub-section called “SCL influence in foreign elections.”

In their statement this morning, the Maltese government said: “The Government of Malta is disappointed to note that the House of Commons report relied on what it describes as ‘confidential information’ claiming that there was a relationship between the Prime Minister and the company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL), when in fact there was never any contact with the company. The Government of Malta denies any claim that there was ever contact with SCL between the Government, the Labour Party in Opposition or the Prime Minister when he was Opposition Leader.”

“This was made very clear in representations by the Government of Malta to the Select Committee, which chose to base its claim on unnamed sources. The Committee, at no stage, supported its allegations by any evidence, nor did it afford the Maltese authorities the opportunity to respond.  On the contrary, willingly and wilfully, it disregarded representations made by the Maltese authorities in writing; thus, failing to comply with usual procedures of inviting the stakeholder involved to respond to the allegations made.”

“The important work that the Select Committee has been doing by investigating such an important subject was severely undermined by allowing itself to propagate misinformation on a European State by anonymous sources,” the Maltese government said.

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