The Explorer Explainer
The Influence Industry Explorer exhibits the myriad of companies working in political influence across the world. Using The Explorer, you can find details about when and where they’ve worked with political groups, as well as links to their websites, company information, and public sources. In this article you will find a glossary of the data we’ve included and sources we used.
The Explorer is an investigators’ tool that provides access to a unique and open collection of data on the companies working in political influence. The data includes details of over 30 countries the companies have worked in, dates they’ve worked, financial data from the UK and US electoral finance transparency systems, and links to the companies and our public sources. The tool is a first-of-its-kind resource for journalists, researchers, election oversight groups, and any others who are monitoring and investigating political influence.
The Explorer allows you to:
- explore the data Tactical Tech has collected including the countries the companies have worked in, the dates they’ve worked in the industry and the type of work they carry out
- visit the links to their websites, company database information, or to sources evidencing their work in politics
- download the data so you can play with it and add to it yourself.
We have robustly checked the data through double- (and triple-) coding, however, due to the opaque and ever shifting nature of the industry, there is always new information or newly outdated links. We appreciate anyone getting in touch with us if they see something that should be reflected differently or if they have new information, or if you’d like to add to our data, or submit a proposal for a case study based on the data.
Send an email to ttc @ tacticaltech.org with the subject line ‘Explorer Data’.
Glossary of the Influence Industry Explorer
Below are descriptions of the different elements of The Explorer.
Name and alternative names of companies
This is the formal name of the organisation. We also recorded any other known names they operate under or are associated with through their business, such as other trademarks, parent companies, or previous company names.
The description currently includes
a) a summary of the type of work they do
b) the industries they work with
c) and, where relevant, any notes on the company status, such as if they have dissolved or are now owned by another company.
In cases where the company has a live website, we provide a link to this website. In cases where their website is not available (which may be because they don’t have one or the link is no longer working), we link to their LinkedIn or social media. If none of these are available, we link to the closest we can find to a company summary, such as their profile on the UK company house website or Crunchbase. In some cases, there are no descriptive overview pages available, in which case all information about the company can be found under ‘evidence’.
Open Corporates ID and OCCRP Aleph ID
Here we link to the OpenCorporates and/or the OCCRP company databases where you can find an overview of their business registration information.
The evidence of their work with political parties currently covers:
- The country or region they work in
- The dates they have worked in political campaigning
- The type of work they do
Country and Region
We record the country that they have been observed to work in. However, the regions were harder to define, and we only described the region as the company or source had themselves – e.g. we record that a company works in Europe only if they also name this region on their website or in another case, we code that they work internationally if the company have written the word ‘international’ explicitly on their website.
Dates of Work
The dates of work are either
- a specific year in which we know they worked for an election campaign or
- a range with a start year and end year (including the present day) in which the company has stated they work in political elections
Category of Work
We have used categories defined by our previous research defined as Intelligence, Asset, Influence or Miscellaneous (link). Many companies engage with more than one of these types of work.
- Data as an asset: These companies engage with collecting and hosting data from various places including collating database records, polling, ‘social listening’ and buying and selling this personal data.
- Data as intelligence: These companies carry out analytics, metrics, profiling, and segmentation, as well as hosting data on databases such as customer relationship management systems.
- Data as influence: These companies support the campaign and communication from strategy to design, to ad placement and outreach and keywords include mobilisation, public affairs, marketing, advertising, and fundraising.
- Miscellaneous: While we are only interested in companies carrying out work in one or more of the categories above, some of the companies were found in the UK or US financial spending databases (described further below) conducting work that could not be covered by these categories such as travel expenses or human resources. In these cases, we use the category miscellaneous.
This evidence comes from three different categories of sources:
- Primary sources: a company’s own promotional materials such as its websites or social media pages
- Secondary sources: a different source from the company itself including media coverage, company databases, or research publications
- Financial election databases: data from the UK and US public election finance databases.
Primary Sources: Self-Published Content
This evidence is provided by the company itself. It is primarily found on their website, but in may also come from their social media channels or other spaces they can publish information about themselves. We have usually used a link to the source from the WayBackMachine.
Secondary Sources: Journalism and other data sources
This evidence is provided by any other sources, including external newspapers, academic publications, or online publications. While we try to link only to reliable secondary sources, we cannot always verify the accuracy of these sources.
Financial Election Databases
The UK and the US have two publicly accessible and detailed election spending and donation monitoring systems. From which we downloaded the following (last updated - October 6th):
UK Electoral Commission (all data under ‘spending’): http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/
US Federal Electoral Commission (operating expenditures 2020-2022): https://www.fec.gov/data/browse-data/?tab=bulk-data
To use the downloaded data we first ‘normalised’ all the names by making them all lowercase and removing any references to the business such as ‘ltd’ or ‘limited. We then scanned for all matches that start with the names and alternative names we identified of the companies.
Secondly, we matched the categories provided by the electoral finance systems to our four categories. In the case of the UK, there are 9 categories set by the electoral management body, and in the case of the US, these categories are input by the party themselves – in which case there were over 13,000 different categories. We mapped these categories by setting keywords to map to our four categories.
Some examples of how we’ve mapped are below, if you’d like the full set, please get in touch.
INTELLIGENCE = ['testing', 'optimization', 'targeting']
INFLUENCE = ['ads', 'advert', 'email', 'fundraising', 'facebook', 'media', 'robocall', 'pamphlet',]
ASSET = ['list', 'acquisition', 'data', 'research', 'voter file']
MISCELLANEOUS = ['catering', 'travel', 'room rental']
When mapping the US data in the case of no category, we used the ‘purpose’ column, mapped with the same words. Finally, if there were no category or purpose, we’d tag the data as miscellaneous.
Finally, you can also explore highlighted key stories within the data and our methodologies of research through our case studies, available on the landing page of the explorer.
We appreciate anyone getting in touch with us if they see something that should be reflected differently or if they have new information, or if you’d like to add to our data, or submit a proposal for a case study based on the data.
Send an email to ttc @ tacticaltech.org with the subject line ‘Explorer Data’.
Project and Research Lead: Amber Macintyre
Project Design: Ralph Delfs and Marcus Theisen, Sinnwerkstatt
Data Research: Patrick Harvey, Cassie Cladis, Emma Neibig
Project input from: Christy Lange, Gary Wright, Laurent Dellere, Marek Tuszynski, Yiorgos Bagakis