Cambridge Analytica's Ex-CEO Withdraws From Cannes Lions Lineup After Protests

Former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix - H 2018
Courtesy of Getty Images

Alexander Nix was due to speak Thursday but backed out late Wednesday after the filmmakers behind Netflix's 'The Great Hack' scheduled a special screening of the film about the political data scandal for Thursday afternoon.

Cambridge Analytica founder and former CEO Alexander Nix has dropped out of Cannes Lions following objections from several attendees.

Nix was scheduled to speak Thursday evening, but backed out late Wednesday after the filmmakers behind Netflix's The Great Hack scheduled a special screening of the film for Thursday afternoon.

The film, from directors Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim, looks at the scandal that arose when Nix's political consulting firm improperly obtained the data of Facebook users to build psychological profiles of a large portion of the U.S. electorate prior to the 2016 presidential election.

The festival had earlier said Nix was invited to support vigorous debate. The session was to be hosted by the Financial Times.

Unrest had been stewing among attendees of the advertising festival throughout the week, with an anonymous prior winner of a Cannes Lions award — the ad world's equivalent of an Oscar — saying he cut his prize in half and returned it to the festival in protest.

“If we have a megaphone that speaks to billions of people, we have some level of social responsibility to make sure the things that we are saying are ethically and morally on the level,” said one attendee who works for a data management platform ahead of Nix's withdrawal.

The move also came after Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg spoke earlier in the day and said the social platform had missed the scandal as it was unfolding. “We missed it, everyone missed it and that's on us,” she said, adding the company had been more concerned with hacking. “It was a more insidious threat.”