22 Mar 2018

Cambridge Analytica: Academic advised Russians

4:49 pm on 22 March 2018

The academic at the centre of the Cambridge Analytica scandal advised Russian university lecturers who were exploring the link between personality disorders and abusive online behaviour.

A screengrab on the Cambridge Analytica webpage

A screengrab on the Cambridge Analytica webpage: https://cambridgeanalytica.org Photo: Screengrab/https://cambridgeanalytica.org

Aleksandr Kogan advised a team at St Petersburg State University that was exploring whether psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism - dubbed the 'dark triad' by psychologists - were linked to abusive online behaviour, said Yanina Ledovaya, senior lecturer at the university's department of psychology.

"We wanted to detect (internet) trolls in order to improve in some way the lives of people suffering from trolling," Ms Ledovaya told Reuters.

Kogan, a lecturer at Britain's Cambridge University, has come under fire for passing data collected via a Facebook personality quiz to political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Kogan advised the St Petersburg team between 2015 and 2017.

The team built a Facebook app using a 61-question survey for Russian-speaking users that sought to determine to what degree they had 'dark triad' traits. Separately, the researchers analysed the text of users' public Facebook posts.

Ledovaya said the data gathered was not passed to anyone outside the five-member research team, nor was it shared with Kogan.

The emergence of Kogan's St Petersburg connection comes as relations between Moscow and the West plumb new lows. Kogan, a U.S. citizen, was born in the former-Soviet republic of Moldova but moved to the United States as a child, Britain's Guardian newspaper said.

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for tampering with the U.S. presidential campaign.

One line of inquiry being pursued by Mueller is the suspected use of targeted Facebook messages by Russian groups - including the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Bureau.

The St Petersburg State University research team has nothing to do with the Internet Research Bureau, said Ledovaya.

Cambridge University said Kogan had correctly sought the permission of the head of the psychology department to do the work with St Petersburg.

Kogan did not respond to an emailed request to comment on his work in St Petersburg.


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