The whistleblower behind claims about the misuse of Facebook users’ data has told MPs he is “absolutely convinced” that “totally illegal” co-ordination took place between pro-Brexit group and helped win the 2016 referendum.
Former Cambridge Analytica employee Chris Wylie said it was “unreasonable to come to any other conclusion” about why independent campaign groups hired the same Canadian data company “other than co-ordination”.
Mr Wylie and other whistleblowers have claimed Vote Leave directed other campaign groups in order to avoid a £7 million legal limit on election spending, in breach of electoral law – something the official Leave campaign and its leaders deny.
Vote Leave passed £675,000 on to BeLeave, a group set up by fashion student Darren Grimes, 22. Almost all the money was then spent on hiring AggregateIQ (AIQ) to target advertising at web users. Vote Leave also spent 40 per cent of its budget with AIQ. A further £32,000 was paid to AIQ by the DUP after receiving £425,000 from the Constitutional Research Council, chaired by Richard Cook, a former vice-chairman of the Scottish Conservatives.
“I am absolutely convinced that there was a common plan and common purpose with Vote Leave, BeLeave, the DUP, and Veterans for Britain,” Mr Wylie said. “All of these companies somehow, for some reason, all decided to use AIQ.”
He claimed AIQ staff admitted “it was totally illegal” and found it “amusing”. Mr Wylie told the committee: “I think it is completely reasonable to say there could have been a different outcome of the referendum had there not been, in my view, cheating.”
MPs were told Vote Leave hired AIQ because it was “the next best thing” to Cambridge Analytica, the company accused of harvesting the details of up to 50 million Facebook users to target political messages for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Mr Wylie claimed AIQ was “a company that can do virtually everything that Cambridge Analytica can do but with a different billing name”.
He added: “For me it makes me so angry because a lot of people supported Leave because they believe in British law and to irrevocably alter the constitutional settlement of this country on the basis of fraud is a mutilation of the constitutional settlement of this country.”
He was also asked whether Cambridge Analytica had worked on the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Mr Wylie told MPs: “I know Alexander [Nix, the suspended CEO] pitched for work in relation to the Scottish independence referendum but I’m very fuzzy on the details on what side that was for and what the actual pitch was.”