Canadian whistleblower 'did us all a service' with Brexit testimony, says British MP
Former Cambridge Analytica data scientist told lawmakers 'cheating' may have influenced referendum results
Whistleblower Chris Wylie is a "credit to Canada," says a Labour MP who heard the data scientist's explosive testimony to British lawmakers on Tuesday.
Wylie alleged that Brexit campaigners on the "Leave" side broke UK election spending laws and misused Facebook data, as part of an effort to sway voters in the EU referendum.
Wylie, who helped found Cambridge Analytica, made international waves last week with his allegations the company improperly harvested details of 50 million Facebook users and used the material in U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign.
That same data was used by Vote Leave, the official campaign backing Britain's exit from the European Union, Wylie told a British parliamentary committee on Tuesday.
He also implicated B.C.-based marketing and software development company AggregateIQ, saying he "absolutely" believed it had drawn on Cambridge Analytica's databases for its work on the Brexit referendum.
- Whistleblower says 'cheating' may have changed Brexit vote outcome
- Whistleblower on why he exposed Facebook data misuse
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw was at the committee hearing when Wylie testified. He spoke with As It Happens host about what he heard.
Explosive testimony from this Canadian man, this whistleblower, Christopher Wylie. He says the Brexit vote was won through cheating. What are we to make of that?
All in all, he raised an awful lot of questions that need to be answered by our government, by those who campaigned to leave the European Union, and our regulators.
These are, of course, all allegations. But what did he back that up with?
He backed it up with the three ring-binder files of documentary evidence ... that have all been deposited by his lawyers to these various investigations that are going on here.
But he also backed it up, as far as I was concerned by watching him, with just incredible composure and an encyclopedic knowledge of what had been going on.
He is a credit to Canada, I have to say, at his age to be so composed before parliamentary committee. It was really striking.
What does it say about this Canadian company, AggregateIQ? What do we now understand from him, the allegations about how the money was spent by that campaign?
We have very strict spending limits in elections and in referendums in Britain.
The Leave campaign had more money than it could spend, so it basically set up these other half sister organizations, and it gave money to them, including this 22-year-old student who set up something called BeLeave, which is supposed to be kind of a youth version of the campaign.
Now, it's OK to give those organizations money, but only if the campaigns are separate. And it's clear from Mr. Wylie's testimony and the testimony of others that the campaigns were not separate.
Each of them spent money either with the AggregateIQ in Canada or with Cambridge Analytica on this this targeting of millions of voters in the U.K. using data that they had acquired.
Forty per cent of the whole budget of the Leave campaign was spent with AggregateIQ. I mean, that is an extraordinary sum of money.
And Mr. Wylie said that the record of AggregateIQ in this area was to shift between seven and 10 percent of voters
The referendum here was only a margin of two per cent. If two per cent of voters have changed their mind, the result would have been different.
That's why Mr. Wylie, himself, said — although he was a Brexit supporter, he supports United Kingdom leaving the European Union — he said that given that cheating, he thinks that the result and the legitimacy of that result is called into question.
[Editor's note: AggregateIQ has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and says it is not connected to Cambridge Analytica.]
The assumption was that [Wylie] is somebody who wanted the U.K. to stay in the union. But what we learned is that, in fact, he supported the Leave side. ... How did how did people in the committee respond when they learned that?
I think it adds to the compelling nature of his testimony. And it's is not just him.
[Whistleblower] Shahmir Sanni, who was one of these people involved with Be Leave ... also made quite clear that he supported Brexit and he still supports it.
What these whistleblowers have in common is that they believe this is a bigger issue than whether Britain leaves the European Union or not. It's about the integrity and security of our electoral system and the honesty and the accuracy of our electoral process.
I pay tribute to these guys for blowing the whistle in the way that they have. Because they're doing us all a service, whatever your politics.
Whatever your view on Brexit, they are making a very important service to British democracy by helping us understand how this data abuse and manipulation works.
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC News. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong.