Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal ‘a stab in the heart of democracy’, warn MEPs

Whistleblower’s revelations may put legitimacy of UK’s Brexit vote in doubt.

Christopher Wylie | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

04 Apr 2018

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie may be invited to a hearing in the European Parliament.

MEPs say they want to question Wylie and representatives from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica on the impact the data misuse scandal had on the outcome of the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum and on “European democracy.”

Greens/EFA group MEPs have requested that the Parliament’s committee on constitutional affairs extends the invitation “at the earliest opportunity.”


The proposal has been put forward by German Greens MEP Sven Giegold, who is Parliament’s rapporteur for transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions.

On Tuesday, he said, "The Facebook scandal is a stab in the heart of democracy. It is about much more than breaches of data protection rules; it is about the legitimacy of democratic elections and referenda.

“It is now the responsibility of democratic institutions to find out to what extent illegal practices have influenced democratic elections. Should it transpire that illegal methods of Cambridge Analytica have indeed influenced the outcome of the Brexit referendum, the legitimacy of the vote would be in doubt.”

Giegold added, “I expect Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to cooperate in clarifying these allegations. Facebook must fully disclose how the platform can be used for political purposes. If business models based on collecting data endanger democracy, then democracy must set strict corresponding rules.

“Transparency in election campaign management and election financing plays a key role in ensuring the legitimacy of democratic elections".

In a letter to the AFCO committee - signed by Giegold and French colleague Pascal Durand - the pair argue that, “These allegations go largely beyond the issue of personal data protection and online companies regulation. They go to the heart of democracy: the legitimacy of democratic votes.

"Should it transpire that illegal methods of Cambridge Analytica have indeed influenced the outcome of the Brexit referendum, the legitimacy of the vote would be in doubt” Sven Giegold MEP

“As a matter of fact, given the narrow gap between the Remainers and the Brexiteers, they demonstrate that a private company may have, by breaching some fundamental rules, influenced the issue of one of the recent most important votes for the future of the EU and of the UK citizens.

“As MEPs and as committed Europeans and democrats, we cannot remain silent in front of such allegations. European citizens have a right to know what Cambridge Analytica has done precisely. Facebook has to explain how exactly their platform was and is being used for political campaigning purposes.”

It adds, “For these reasons, we would like to propose that the committee responsible for constitutional affairs organises a hearing with high level representatives from Facebook and from Cambridge Analytica as well as the whistleblower Christopher Wylie in order to get a proper understanding of the role this companies have played during the Brexit referendum campaign and in electoral campaigning.”

Meanwhile, the Parliament’s 51 strong GUE/NGL group has announced a new award to “recognise journalists, whistleblower and defenders of the right to information.”

The award will be made on 29 May in Strasbourg and is named in honour of the murdered Maltese journalist and whistleblower , Daphne Caruana Galizia.

A group spokesperson said, “The award is for individuals or groups who have been intimidated and/or persecuted for uncovering the truth and exposing it to the public. The award aims to support and disseminate their work in an effort to safeguard and promote the freedom of press and the right to information - both of which are under threat around the world but also inside the European Union, which does not yet offer adequate legislative protection for such work.

The chosen winner will receive €5000 for their work. Nominations are open until 22 April. A jury of journalists, whistleblowers and GUE/NGL group MEPs will assess the nominations.

Read the most recent articles written by Martin Banks - New EU regulations on AI seek to ban mass and indiscriminate surveillance

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