Alexander Nix withdraws from Cannes Lions line-up

Ex-Cambridge Analytica boss was due to speak on Thursday.

©Neil P. Mockford/GettyImages
©Neil P. Mockford/GettyImages

Former Cambridge Analytica chief executive and founder Alexander Nix has withdrawn from a panel on the morality of data at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity after news of his attendance drew criticism from journalists and industry leaders.

Nix was due to speak on Thursday at the Debussy Theatre at 5pm.

A spokeswoman for Cannes Lions confirmed: "Alexander Nix, former chief executive and founder of Cambridge Analytica, will no longer be speaking in the Debussy Theatre on Thursday June 20. Festival organisers accept his decision to withdraw."

The organisers had originally stood by their decision to offer Nix a platform in a statement on Tuesday afternoon that argued Nix’s attendance would offer the chance for a "robust debate".

Nix was forced to step down from his company after it was tied to a massive data breach that exposed the private data of more than 80 million Facebook users last year. Cambridge Analytica later filed for insolvency.

The company harvested the personal data of millions of people's Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political advertising purposes. The scandal erupted in March 2018 with the emergence of a whistleblower, ex-Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie, who had been an anonymous source for Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr.

Cadwalladr is also due to speak at Cannes at the screening of a new documentary about the data scandal. On Twitter, she described the decision to give Nix a platform as "pretty special", considering both companies were found guilty of having broken the law and in parts covered it up.

She wondered if Nix would have asked Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, also in attendance at Cannes, when she first heard of his company. "That’s the exact sort of question she and Zuckerberg have refused to discuss with our parliament," she added.

Other industry leaders have been critical of giving the controversial Nix a platform, describing it as "tone deaf". One critic one cut his Cannes Lion award in half in a letter signed "Mad as Hell" as he called on Cannes to take a stand in an era of social purpose.

Earlier today, a group that is part of Extinction Rebellion staged a protest outside the Palais, calling on adland to do more to tackle climate change.

A version of this article first appeared on PRWeek

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