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MP doubles down on claim that Facebook misled parliament

Damian Collins, the chair of the UK’s fake news inquiry, has doubled down on his claim that Facebook misled parliament over its knowledge of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The company has hit back at allegations that it misinformed MPs about when it first became aware of the controversial political consultancy’s data harvesting practices.

Its chief technology officer told the inquiry last year that Facebook had first discovered that the consultancy had been misusing Facebook user data when the Guardian newspaper covered the incident in December 2015.

However, documents since revealed by American regulators signal that the company’s employees had called for an investigation into Cambridge Analytica three months earlier.

In comments shared with the Guardian, Facebook’s UK policy chief Rebecca Stimson said the two dates referred to separate incidents. “We heard speculation about data scraping by Cambridge Analytica in September 2015,” she said. “We have also testified publicly that we first learned Kogan sold data to Cambridge Analytica in December 2015. These are two different things and this is not new information.

“The allegation in the SEC’s complaint that is the focus of your letter does not concern Kogan/GSR’s improper transfer of data to Cambridge Analytica.”

Collins, a Conservative MP who chairs the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, rejected the denial. In a tweet posted on Monday night (12 August), he wrote: “Typically disingenuous response from @facebook to #CommonsCMS letter. They didn’t previously disclose to us concerns about Cambridge Analytica prior to Dec 2015, or say what they did about it & haven’t shared results of investigations into other Apps.”

As NS Tech revealed last year, Facebook has taken steps to bolster its British lobbying arm in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In March 2018, the company advertised six new roles for policy managers tasked with building relationships with politicians. However, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has declined several requests by MPs to appear before parliament.