Newly unearthed documents describing the relationship between SCL Group, parent company of embattled data firm Cambridge Analytica, and the State Department provide a rare glimpse into the nation’s effort to counter terrorist propaganda.
The $500,000, no-bid contract was awarded for “target audience research” to counteract terrorist propaganda, according to documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity under the Freedom of Information Act.
SCL was hired by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which describes itself as the “primary coordination entity among all U.S. federal agencies that work to counter violent extremist messaging and provide alternative narratives in the digital space.”
It hired SCL to develop a communication strategy that could reduce the “volume, credibility and effectiveness of ISIS recruitment propaganda.” The Global Engagement Center was also looking to “identify interventions” that would decrease the likelihood that potential recruits would join the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations abroad, documents show.
The documents include the original solicitation describing the kinds of services SCL would provide to the State Department and information about payments to SCL, totaling $496,232. They also detail the State Department’s justification for awarding the contract to SCL without conducting open bidding for contractors.
Cambridge Analytica, the SCL subsidiary, was founded by former Trump campaign and White House adviser Steve Bannon. The firm folded earlier this year amid a scandal involving how it obtained personal information from Facebook accounts, including potentially tens of millions of Americans.