Facebook founder called to give evidence to Westminster fake news inquiry

protest: A sign put up by a protester at the offices of Cambridge Analytica (CA) in central London  PICTURE: Dominic Lipinski/PA
protest: A sign put up by a protester at the offices of Cambridge Analytica (CA) in central London PICTURE: Dominic Lipinski/PA

FACEBOOK founder Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned to give evidence before the parliamentary inquiry into fake news after revelations about users' personal data held by British firm Cambridge Analytica (CA).

Damian Collins, chairman of the inquiry, accused the social media giant of giving answers "misleading to the committee" at a previous hearing that asked whether information had been taken without users' consent.

"It is now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process," Mr Collins wrote in a letter to Mr Zuckerberg.

"Given your commitment at the start of the New Year to 'fixing' Facebook, I hope that this representative will be you," he said.

CA was suspended from Facebook last week after it emerged that data on millions of users had not been destroyed as agreed.

Whistleblower Chris Wylie, a former research director at the UK-based company, told Channel 4 News a so-called data grab had been carried out on more than 50 million profiles in 2014.

Asked about the reports, Mrs May's spokesman said: "It is absolutely right that the Information Commissioner is investigating this matter.

"We expect Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and all the organisations involved to cooperate fully."

The ICO is investigating the use of personal data for political campaigns, including the activities of CA.

An investigation by Facebook at CA's London office was halted in order to allow the ICO to pursue its inquiry.

An ICO spokesman said: "On March 7, the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham issued a Demand for Access to records and data in the hands of Cambridge Analytica.

"Cambridge Analytica has not responded to the Commissioner by the deadline provided; therefore, the Information Commissioner is seeking a warrant to obtain information and access to systems and evidence related to her investigation.

"On March 19, Facebook announced that it will stand down its search of Cambridge Analytica premises at the Information Commissioner's request. Such a search would potentially compromise a regulatory investigation. "

Meanwhile, further claims about CA included allegations the company offered to entrap politicians and used ex-spies to dig for dirt on potential targets.

An undercover investigation by Channel 4 recorded CA's chief executive Alexander Nix suggesting ways he could help a potential client.

A reporter posing as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka met Mr Nix and other senior figures from CA.

Asked about what "deep digging" could be done, Mr Nix told the reporter: "Oh, we do a lot more than that.

"I mean deep digging is interesting but you know equally effective can be just to go and speak to the incumbents and to offer them a deal that's too good to be true, and make sure that that's video recorded, you know, these sorts of tactics are very effective instantly having video evidence of corruption, putting it on the internet, these sorts of things."

Mr Nix said they could "send some girls around to the candidate's house", adding that Ukrainian girls "are very beautiful, I find that works very well", Channel 4 reported.

The boss of Cambridge Analytica has denied using entrapment.

Alexander Nix, chief executive of the firm, told reporters outside its offices in New Oxford Street, London, that "appearances can be deceptive" when asked if the firm had previously used entrapment following the disclosures on Channel 4 News .

When asked if CA would abandon its political work Mr Nix gave no reply but firmly denied he had misled parliament over its use of data, saying "absolutely not".

Mr Nix arrived as the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham worked to secure a warrant to search computers and servers to investigate the firm's activities.

Ms Denham criticised CA for being "unco-operative" with her probe as she confirmed the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) would apply for a warrant to help her examine the firm's activities.

Mr Nix told BBC's Newsnight the Channel 4 sting was "intended to embarrass us".

"We see this as a co-ordinated attack by the media that's been going on for very, very many months in order to damage the company that had some involvement with the election of Donald Trump," he said.

Mr Nix said he had a "huge amount of regrets about the fact that we, maybe, undertook this meeting and spoke with a certain amount of hyperbole about some of the things that we do".

He added: "I have some regrets about the way that I have represented what the company does.

"I certainly feel that the air of mystery and negativity that surrounds the work of Cambridge is misfounded and, as the CEO, I take responsibility for that."