Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan has defended his party’s decision to have hired a United States (US)-based company that said it targeted undecided voters and helped secure a victory for the governing APNU+AFC coalition, even as he said it would not be the same as the opposition’s plan to peddle fake news and disinformation in the lead-up to the next general elections.
He insisted that the AFC’s campaign was not the same as would be the PPP’s through the US company, Mercury Public Affairs, that has been hired at a cost of GYD$34 million.
Ramjattan at first denied knowing the name of the company but, when told it was El Toro IP Targeting, stopped short of conceding that an American firm might have been used. “I don’t know anything about El Toro…I don’t know whether El Torro was the firm used but in any event we did not (in) any event do that which is being complained by doing the personalised ads as Mercury, we understand, will be doing and El Toro would not be doing the mischief they have asked Mercury to do for them,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.
Ramjattan, who was the AFC’s Leader in 2015, denied knowing the companies that had been used by his party. “I am wholly unaware of what were the firms employed at the last elections but it could not have been… I am absolutely certain that we would not indulge in all kinds of news-feed that are not going to be repeating themselves on Facebook and a set of rascality and racial ads and all of that,” he said.
El Toro has not made it a secret that it helped the Granger-led coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) win the 2015 general elections by sending messages directly to youths in Guyana via social media based on their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. In fact, an internal correspondence from the President and Chief Executive Officer of El Toro told associates that, among other things, “60% of the audience is under the age of 34, which is spot-on for our expected demography.”
The Public Security Minister has already indicated that the governing coalition would ask Facebook to block messages about Guyana’s elections from Mercury Public Affairs because that would amount to the rigging of the polls through inaccurate information.
Ramjattan reiterated that the PPP’s plans to drive a social media campaign would be “dangerous for our democracy” and would deprive the ruling coalition of the right of reply because the advertisements would disappear. Claiming that Mercury Public Affairs was associated with Cambridge Analytica in US President Donald Trump’s campaign, he said that company planned to target “persuadables” with misinformation, disinformation and fake news.