Suspended Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix will not be appearing before the UK parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, as scheduled. In a statement the committee’s chair Damian Collins said that Nix, “cites the Information Commissioner’s Office’s ongoing investigation as a reason not to appear.”
Really? Cambridge Analytica boss refuses to appear before MPs https://t.co/9ltjD4jA68— Theresa Griffin MEP (@TheresaMEP) 17 April 2018
The committee’s statement made clear their dissatisfaction with Nix’s refusal to appear again before their Fake News Inquiry panel, with Collins saying:
“We do not accept Mr Nix’s reason for not appearing in a public session before the Committee. We have taken advice and he is not been charged with any criminal offence and there is no active legal proceedings and we plan to raise this with the Information Commissioner when we meet her this week. There is therefore no legal reason why Mr Nix cannot appear. The Committee is minded to issue a formal summons for him to appear on a named day in the very near future. We’ll make a further statement about this next week.”
The EU Referendum
Nix was expected to face questions over testimony from former Cambridge Analytica employees Chris Wylie and Brittany Kaiser, along with written evidence and information collected by Dr Emma Briant. In his first appearance before the committee in February, Nix repeatedly denied that Cambridge Analytica or any SCL Group company worked on the Leave.eu campaign. Nix told the committee, “No company that falls under any of the group vehicles in Cambridge Analytica or SCL or any other company that we are involved with has worked on the EU referendum.”
Despite this, testimony from Wylie and Kaiser along with an (unpaid) invoice for £41,500 from Cambridge Analytica to Leave.eu shows that the company did some work for the campaign, putting the lie to Nix’s denials of involvement.
Bulk Harvesting of Facebook Data and the Wikileaks Connection
Another problem for Nix is his earlier claim to the committee that, “We do not work with Facebook data, and we do not have Facebook data.” As with the company’s involvement in Leave.eu, subsequent testimony and evidence has shown this claim to be untrue. Cambridge Analytica did scrape Facebook profile data on a huge scale, with Facebook themselves estimating the total at 87 million users’ data.
Cambridge Analytica suspended CEO Alexander Nix wanted to access the US market quickly "while the data laws were still the wild west", his former employee Brittany Kaiser tells parliament.— Paul Lewis (@PaulLewis) 17 April 2018
Further questions will center on Nix’s murky connection with the whistleblowing site Wikileaks. A statement issued after the committee published evidence it had received from academic Emma Briant, who had interviewed former Cambridge Analytica employees and gathered data on their work, said, “There are also more questions for Alexander Nix about the closeness of his relationship with Julian Assange, given Nigel Oakes's assertion that Mr Nix called up Mr Assange and asked if Cambridge Analytica could help WikiLeaks to disseminate Hillary Clinton's emails, during the US Presidential campaign.”
Amidst these inconsistencies and contradictions, it is doubtful that the Select Committee will roll over and accept Nix’s refusal to appear again. A letter from the committee recalling Nix to testify further describes, “inconsistencies in your evidence to us” and highlights how, “Giving false statement to a Select Committee is a very serious matter.” Collins has since gone further, saying that Nix, “has deliberately misled the Committee and Parliament by giving false statements.”
It is expected that the committee will issue a summons, demanding Nix appear again to answer these questions.