Monday 8th June 2020
UPDATED: 23rd December 2020


How Dominic Cummings Hacked The EU Referendum

How did Dominic Cummings hack[1] the 2016 EU Referendum?

In this article I’m going to explain how to make people in a democracy change their mind to believe whatever you want them to… and how to steal a referendum.

This is a story of two companies: Cambridge Analytica (SCL) and AggregateIQ and one outcome – #Brexit.

Cambridge Analytica

“It’s no good fighting an election on the facts, because actually it’s all about emotion”
Mark Turnbull
Managing Director at Cambridge Analytica [2]

Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica [3] along with its Vice President, Steve Bannon, the Chief Executive of Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential Campaign [4] received $15 Million to develop software [5] which 'micro-targets' voters from Robert Mercer, a Billionaire US Hedge Fund Manager [6]. Micro-targeting means "transmitting a message to a subgroup of the electorate on the basis of unique information about that subgroup" [7].

Cambridge Analytica

Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica on Psychographics and Elections[3]

Cambridge Analytica’s Chris Whiley [8] and Dr Aleksandr Kogan [9] spent $1 Million [8] copying the data of 87 Million Facebook users [10] by creating an app called 'thisisyourdigitallife' [9] used by 270,000 [10] Facebook users.

The app downloaded all of the information from their profile and all of their friend’s profiles - without anyone knowing [8].

Cambridge Analytica accessed names, addresses, email addresses, ages, likes, status updates and in some cases, even private messages [8]. That data could then be collated into a central database with other information sources such as the electoral roll, phone book, company data.

During a campaign where media is created and placed on the Internet, this data could be connected to user IP addresses if they opened an email or read a webpage - and used to track them to websites all over over the Internet, even without clicking links between them by using a 'cookie' - which is "a small file that websites place on a visitor's computer that allows them to obtain personal information about that specific user" [11].

Psychographic Data

"Fear is the most powerful enemy of reason... Leadership means inspiring us to manage through our fears, demagoguery is exploiting our fears for political gain."
Al Gore
The Politics of Fear [12]

The data included demographic and psychographic data. Demographic data describes a person physically - their height, weight, sexual orientation, age etc but psychographic data tells us how a person thinks - what they like, dislike, do, hope for and also... what they fear.

If you know what someone fears, it is easy to manipulate them. All you need to do is to barrage them with media that plays on their fears - again and again and again – and then having created an avoidance response [13]... then provide them a way to avoid what they fear (eg. vote to leave the EU). This approach, while effective, is very damaging to mental health.

Leave EU

Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica’s Business Development Manager at the Leave.EU Campaign Launch [14]

In November 2015, Leave.EU announced their collaboration with Cambridge Analytica’s Business Development Director, Brittany Kaiser [14] to use "non-traditional methods" to get "unregistered voters to vote". Arron Banks of Leave.EU invested £8,106,375 [16] to back the Leave vote before the limitations on spending came into effect.

Arron Banks was Nigel Farage’s UKIP's biggest donor and a close personal friend (he provided him with £400,000 and rented a £4.4 Million home in the year after the Brexit vote [15]) and and a close personal friend of Steve Bannon, Vice President of Cambridge Analytica [19].

A detailed proposal was made by Cambridge Analytica [18]. Aaron Banks confirmed that Leave.EU hired Cambridge Analytica in October 2015 [17] and again confirmed in a 2017 interview that he used Cambridge Analytica's Brexit AI software to make £16 Million profit in 6 months in his business, Eldon Insurance [21].

However, when he was subject to an investigation by the House of Commons Culture Committee that he stated that he did not hire them, giving the reason that "Leave.EU [didn't win] lead status, entitling it to spend up to £7 Million" [17] .

Vote Leave did [20].

Now neither campaign could use Cambridge Analytica's services, one for budget reasons an the other because any collusion between the two campaigns would give Leave an unfair advantage over Remain and violate electoral law [23].

Dominic Cummings needed to find a different company to provide these services.


"We worked on the Brexit Campaign, but we don't talk about that. We won."
Alexander Nix,
CEO at Cambridge Analytica [31]

Dominic Cummings said that he found AggregateIQ (a company who did exactly the same work as Cambridge Analytica) 'on the Internet' [22].

However this seems unusual, as at the time of the EU Referendum, AggregateIQ had never had a website, just a blank page with their logo and email address [24] and no Google search results for 'AggregateIQ' could be found at that time [19]. And especially unusual as Vote Leave’s Chief Technology Officer, Thomas Borwick was found to have previously worked with both Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ [19].

Leave EU

Zacary Massingham, CEO of AggregateIQ and Jeff Silvester, COO at Canada's House of Commons Standing Committee on Access To Information, Privacy and Ethics [27]

In 2018, links between SCL (Cambridge Analytica's parent company and AggregateIQ were investigated by Canada's House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee. The committee concluded that it "..[AggregateIQ's] testimony is inconsistent, full of contradictions, and conflicts with the testimony of several other reliable witnesses... For example, Mr. Massingham stated that [AggregateIQ's] has no connection with SCL, yet he is listed on certain documents as the head of SCL Canada..". [27]

  • Chris Whiley, Research Diretor of Cambridge Analytica [5] stated at the same investigation that he had "....contacted Jeff Silvester and Zackary Massingham to ask them to work for SCL, and that [AggregateIQ] had been created to work on SCL projects..." [27].
  • Jeff Silvester, COO of AggregateIQ [27] admitted that "AggregateIQ used data provided by SCL Group (Cambridge Analytica)..." [28]
  • Additionally, the business license for AGGREGATEIQ DATA SERVICES LTD had exactly the same address [25] and phone number [19] as SCL Group's Canadian Branch [26] at the very same time: (320-1070 Douglas Street, Victoria, Canada BC V8W 2C4, +1 250 701-3725)
  • Software code exposed in a repository misconfiguration shows that AggregateIQ worked on Cambridge Analytica's projects [29].
Leave EU

Mark Zuckergberg Testified to Congress that his data was also stolen and sold to Cambridge Analytica [30]

  • On 11th April 2018, Mark Zuckerberg confirmed to Congress 87 Million users had been stolen and sold to Cambridge Analytica [30]. Facebook suspended both Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ’s access to Facebook, stating that their investigation concluded that "Cambridge Analytica may be Affiliated with AggregateIQ (though its parent company, SCL) and improperly received Facebook user Data" [30].

How Vote Leave Won

"This strategy involved identifying all the voters... who would be easiest to persuade... Then bombarding them with blogs, websites, articles, videos, ads.. until they saw the World the way we wanted them to."
Brittany Kaiser
Business Development Manager at Cambridge Analytica [31]

1. Identify Potential Voters

Dominic Cummings' Vote Campaign started with 3 audiences that allowed them to identify subgroups to market to on Facebook [32]:

  • 50million_remains was a list of emails and phone numbers of people who entered a 'Win 50 Million' UEFA Football competition which had been shown to users which fit a possible psychographic profile but answered that they intended to vote to remain in the EU. [32]
  • Lookalike (GB, 10%) - 50million_remains were 10% of the population of Great Britain that fit a psycographic profile of people (for example from UKIP supporters) who would vote leave the EU with the 50million_remains list excluded. [32]
  • Vote Leave Instapage Submisisons [32] were the users who had already pledged support on the website's ( landing pages and could be excluded from future new ads and monitored directly by email / sms / phone / app [33].

Arron Bank's (Leave.EU) Eldon Insurance Firm have records on 24.9 million people on file with risk assessments [A] and their CEO actually ran the Leave.EU campaign [A]. Cambrige Analytica proposed that data be exchanged between UKIP, Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance [18]:

Leave EU

Cambridge Analytica's plan for UKIP, Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance [18]

However that could not have been possible as they could not legally work together with Vote Leave.

" would be illegal for campaigns or companies to use individuals 'very precise digital trails' to target [voters].." 
Elizabeth Denham 
U.K.’s Information Commissioner [36]

2. Canvas -> Advertise -> Canvas

Vote Leave designed VICS, the Voter Intention Collection System for canvassers to capture the voting intentions and which issues were the most important to them [34]. Each voter had a unique roll_number, ward code, first and last name etc. Their voting intention and likelihood to vote was also included, along with their last voting intention and last likelihood to vote on a scale of 1-5 [35].

The software also recorded their most important issues: cost, sovereignty (control) or border. [35]. We can see that 2 of the 3 of the issues related to immigration in the application's Guide for Canvassers:

Leave EU

£350 Million, Dangerous Foreign Criminals and Immigration Out of Control were the Vote Leave Campaigns Key Messages [35]

The ability to canvass a small area, do A/B testing on advertisements on Facebook and then canvass and meet the people you were targeting in person would be extremely powerful to test the psychological effects of the advertisements, blogs and websites made.

The other campaign, Leave.EU also had the benefit of Arron Banks' call centres to tele-canvas voters, however he actually employed foreign workers to promote not hiring foreign workers [37]

3. Create Blogs, Websites, Articles, Videos, Ads

Facebook confirmed that AggregateIQ ran $2 Million of ads for Vote Leave, BeLeave, Veterans for Britain and DUP Vote to Leave campaigns from 15th April 2016 to 23 June 2016 [32] in the same account, and with Vote Leave and BeLeave using the same 50million_remains.

50 was a football competition with no initial Vote Leave branding [A] to win £50 Million if you can guess all of the 2016 UEFA scores. To enter the competition, fans had to input their name, address, email and telephone number, and also how they intended to vote in the referendum. [38]

Dominic Cummings said the objective was to harvest "data from people who usually ignore politics – I’m still frustrated we couldn’t persuade someone to insure a £350 million prize which is what I wanted to do" [39]

The the odds of an entrant winning were 1 in 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 [40]

£350 Million For the NHS

£350 Million a week was a theme but it was not factually accurate. The actual net figure would be £155 Million a week after rebates and spending that we get from the EU. This is about 0.3% of the £1,817 Billion UK economy [41]. However, even the Leave.EU stated that 13% of our economy is dependent on the EU [42]. We export £5.59 Billion of goods to the EU every week [43].

The video ads featured an older woman breathless and visiting A&E but unable to be seen because of overcrowding in the waiting room of the hospital, something that less immigration would 'solve' [44].

Boris Johnson famously stood in front of a big red bus with the words '£350 Million for the NHS" written on the side of it with the NHS logo [45]. Buses are the main form of transport for the target swing voters and elderly out patients travelling to the hospital:

Leave EU

Boris Johnson (now Prime Minister with Dominic Cummings as his special Advisor) seen here with UKIP MP Douglas Carswell and the £350 Million NHS Bus [45]

Turkish Migrants

A recurring theme in the Vote Leave advertising was Turkey and migrants moving to the UK.

Vote Leave Turkey Ads

Vote Leave Turkey Ads

Once the user clicked onto a website, now they can be tracked around the web on other sites. The exact theme of ad they clicked on tells the system what they are most concerned about.. for example immigration. If they then went on to search google to see if this is a problem in reality, they would find websites, blogs, videos, posts, images, 'news' stories all changing their World view to believe that immigration is the biggest threat to the UK and it can only be stopped by voting leave.

Xenophobic Vote Leave Immigrant Ads

Xenophobic Vote Leave Immigrant Ads

Links and search keep leading into more blogs, fake news and real new that was fake as Professor Marcus Leaning [46] explains in his presentation, "Brexit, Social Media and Fake News". [46]

Xenophobic Vote Leave Migrant Stories

Xenophobic Vote Leave Migrant Stories

Psychographic data, manipulative media and tracking cookies result in a shift in the Internet a user sees. They start to spread the message to their friends. The Vote Leave app accessed contacts and created a private social network for people to get constant peer reinforcement [47] of a certain World view. Paul McKenna was consulted on how to make the advertisements more persuasive for the Leave.EU campaign [48]. An ex SBS (Special Boat Service) soldier helped to make fake videos of immigrants entering the UK illegally for Leave.EU [49] and fake videos were uploaded of women being assaulted by immigrants [49].

Together, when seen by a user who meets a racist psychographic profile and just entered a competition to win £50 Million and had no idea they were being targeted by a sophisticated psychological operation ('psyops') [51] by a company like Cambridge Analytica / SCL who worked in psychological warfare [52] for the UK Ministry of Defence [53] as recently as 2014 as evidenced by Matt Hancock, then Culture Secretary [53], there was no chance for the voter.

Their entire reality drastically changed.

The Campaign

On the 12th of June, Michael Gove MP said "Later this year, if EU plans are implemented, then we'll have visa-free travel for 77 million Turks throughout Europe" [55], promoting fears of out-of-control immigration.


On the 12th June, Leave.EU placed the following ads on social media in the wake of the Orlando shootings, 36 hours earlier [56]:

Leave.EU use ISIS to get vote

Leave.EU use ISIS to get votes hours after Orlando shooting

Leave.EU placed ads in right-wing extremist Facebook Groups such as Britain First, the BNP, EDL and the National Front [57] like this:

Leave.EU ads in Facebook BNP, EDL ad Britain First groups

Leave.EU ads in Facebook BNP, EDL ad Britain First groups

Pictures of ISIS terrorists alongside the words 'Criminals', 'Terrorists' and 'Turkey' were frightening to see and supported by websites, blogs, videos, posts, images, search engine results and 'news' stories would create a real sense of terror.

Vote Leave

On the 13th of June, Dominic Cummings said that he began a "barrage" [58] of 1.5 billion "£350m/NHS/Turkey" [50] advertisements over a "small time window" to 9 million social media users who had been identified as "persuadable" [58].

These included the false claims of £350 Million EU cost and that 'Turkey is joining the EU':

Vote Leave Turkey Lies

Vote Leave lied about Turkey immigration

Vote Leave published a doctored video in which someone added samples from YouTube of a woman screaming [59] and smashing glass sound effects [59] to footage of a fight in Turkish Parliament over soldiers killed in Syria [60].

Vote Leave played on the fear of terrorism by stating that if we stayed in the EU, Britain's new border would be with Syria and Iraq - where ISIS terrorists were operating:

No alt text provided for this image

Michael Gove MP, Boris Johnson MP and Gisela Stuart MP signed a letter dated 16th June 2016 claiming that Turkey was joining the EU and that 1 Million Turkish people could come to the UK [61]. Boris John later lied about writing this letter and his comments that Turkey can 'be in as long as we are out ' [54]

The requests of people searching for immigration to the UK from Turkey in light of the news that millions of Turks would flood the country far outweighed the economy [62] with phrases like 'turkey visa' and 'turkey visa eu' - even at a time when £350 Million was being heavily promoted by Boris Johnson in the news:

No alt text provided for this image

On the morning of the 16th June 2016, Nigel Farage stood by a van with an image of refugees queuing up to enter the UK with the words "BREAKING POINT" [63] Leave.EU tweeted a video of van after van after van driving the sign through London at 11.35am [64]

No alt text provided for this image

Dominic Cummings' "barrage" [58] of billions of social media ads that promoted the fear that millions of Turkish people were coming to the UK again and again and again continued through the 13th, 14th, 15th, up until the afternoon of the 16th of June.

At 12.53pm on the 16th June 2016, Jo Cox a (beautiful soul and) Pro-Remain MP was murdered in the street by a stressed, mentally vulnerable man [65] with racist tendencies [66] who fit the psychographic profile in the dataset and had recently used the Internet [67] to view groups such as Britain First, targeted by Leave.EU ads [57], video, blogs, websites and fear to manipulate voters.

As he killed her, he repeatedly shouted "Britain First" [69].

"She was driven by her belief that a fairer, kinder and more tolerant world was possible. She believed passionately that even the greatest challenges could be overcome. On 16th June 2016, on her way to a constituency surgery to meet with local residents of Batley and Spen, Jo was murdered because of her beliefs. 
Jo lived by the words she expressed in her first speech in Parliament:"

“We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us”

The Jo Cox Foundation [70]

On 23rd June 2016, the Dominic Cumming's Hack of the EU Referendum secured a 51.89% Leave vote vs 48.11% Remain [68] - a difference of less than just 600,000 votes. He 'won' and he wrote extensively about his achievements in doing so.

Dominic Cummings' Vote Leave was found guilty by the Electoral Commission and fined £61,000 for breaking the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 [71] by exceeding its spending limit by £449,079 [72]. Vote Leave secretly funneled £675,315 [73] money through the BeLeave campaign in order to pass the money to AggregateIQ [73].

During the pause in campaigning after Jo's death, Aggregate IQ was "putting stuff into the system during the pause" [74] and in response to her killing, Dominic Cummings stated:

"I think the right way to deal with terrorism is to carry on with normal life, like Britain used to when it was a more serious country. (I hated the way Cameron would tweet in response to ISIS, giving them just what they want. I hated the way Cameron and Blair read out in Parliament names of people killed which had the same effect... But I was outvoted by MPs who downed tools and headed back to London, giving Osborne/Dre the chance to use the news as they wished. But they botched it — in a classic case study of people fooling themselves, they thought that the country reflected the mood of Inner London. They started tweeting broken hearts and ‘we love our MP’ at each other. They therefore blew their last chance to recover from strategic misjudgements. Those who would run Remain in a second referendum remain disconnected from reality and on current form would botch a second referendum which anyway would be held in circumstances much more favourable to Leave on almost every dimension." [74]

"Vote Leave hacked the referendum.." [75]
Dominic Cummings

Author's note: I know that it can be difficult processing new information that modifies your World view but I want you to remember - always - that the vast majority of people are loving and kind and this World is an amazing, exciting and beautiful place. And it is our diversity that makes us beautiful. It is our humility, our love. We must stay open, strong, positive and make a change in the World for the better. As humans - united we stand, divided we fall.

And please have do faith in referendums in the future and do vote, whatever your belief is. In fact, if we could have a referendum on anything whenever we wanted it, me might not even need Representatives (or their special advisers)! But that's a story for another time.. if you'd like to hear it.. let me know..

And please don't believe everything you read on the Internet - always check the facts.

All it takes for us to have World peace is simply for all of us to believe in it.

In memory of Jo Cox:

"It is not our diversity which divides us; it is not our ethnicity, or religion or culture that divides us. Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division amongst us: between those who cherish democracy and those who do not."
Nelson Mandela

Please share on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to help make a difference. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter or on LinkedIn to hear about new articles.

If you haven't read it yet, you might be interested in: Why Is Dominic Cummings So Important?


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[2] Channel 4 News | Trump's Election Consultants Filmed Saying They Use Bribes and Sex Workers to Entrap Politicians | 19th March 2018:

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[37] Guardian | Ukip-backed Brexit campaign employs EU migrants to rally support | 27th March 2016:

[38] Guardian | Vote Leave faces scrutiny over £50m football contest | 20th May 2018:

[39] Dominic Cummings | June 26th 2019:

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[71] UK Government, Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, Part VII, Chapter II, Section 111:

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[74] Dominic Cummings | O the Referendum #24L | 27th July 2018:

[75] Dominic Cummings | On the referencum #33 | 26th June 2019: