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Brexit vote not won fairly, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower tells MEPs

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie spoke to MEPs in Brussels (European Parliament)

Whistleblower Christopher Wylie has told the European Parliament that the influence of Cambridge Analytica on the Brexit referendum has rendered its result illegitimate.

Wylie, a former employee of data marketing firm, revealed recently how the firm used personal information harvested from millions of Facebook users to build software designed to influence their political choices.

Speaking to MEPs in Brussels on Monday, he said a “privacy crisis” had led the EU to lose one of its largest member states.

“Cambridge Analytica may have dissolved but the European Union and its citizens will feel the impact for a generation,” he said.

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“I do not believe Brexit would have happened if it were not for the data targeting technologies and network of actors set up by Cambridge Analytica.

“I also do not believe the Brexit result was won fairly or legitimately.”

Wylie said it is “almost certain” that electoral and data protection rules were flouted by the official Leave campaign, but said the full facts are being obscured by Facebook.

He added: “If this occurred in Nigeria or Zimbabwe, the EU would demand a re-run of the vote. Perhaps we should hold the UK to the same standard.”

Wylie was among experts who addressed MEPs over the Cambridge Analytica scandal (European Parliament)

The Canadian addressed a special European Parliament committee meeting as part of an investigation into the Cambridge Analytica scandal which also saw MEPs quiz Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Responding to Wylie’s comments, Czech MEP Petr Jezek said: “What we’ve heard about Brexit, it seems to me like the robbery of the century.”

But UKIP leader and MEP Gerard Batten argued the Cambridge Analytica scandal was being used to try and stop Brexit.

“During the referendum campaign, I was out every single day talking to what must have been hundreds if not thousands of people every day face to face,” he told the meeting.

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“Not one of them then, nor anyone since on whatever side of the vote, has said to me that they were influenced in any way, shape or form by anything they saw on social media.

“This whole thing is about the remain establishment doing everything they possibly can to reverse the referendum decision.”

Carole Cadwalladr, the Guardian journalist who broke news of the scandal, insisted it was “not a partisan issue” and accused Batten of burying his head in the sand.

Addressing the MEP directly, she said: “This is about the integrity of our democracy, about our national sovereignty and I would think that you would have an interest in that also.”