Netflix issued with legal threat over Brexit documentary 'The Great Hack'

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Leave campaigner and businessman Arron Banks (Credit: Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

Netflix has been threatened with legal action by Brexit campaigner Arron Banks over its new documentary The Great Hack.

The film, which is due to go live on Netflix later this week, looks into the activities of Banks's pro-Brexit Leave.EU campaign and its connection to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which found that data had been harvested from millions of Facebook accounts without user consent.

Though Banks has not yet seen the film, law firm Kingsley Napley, acting on behalf of the billionaire businessman, requested that it be made available to their client to assess any allegations made in it before broadcast.

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It issued a letter to the documentary makers on July 16, which stated it was concerned about ‘false and defamatory allegations’, and that a failure to respond would result in legal consequences.

The film's co-director Karim Amer told The Observer: “We have received a letter from Arron Banks’s solicitors, which we have responded to, making clear that we stand by the contents of the film and will vigorously defend against any claim.

“We find it ridiculous that Arron Banks and his solicitors would issue such a letter without having seen the actual film.

“We would invite Mr Banks to watch the film when it premieres worldwide on Netflix on 24 July.”

The film contains interviews with journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who has been investigating the connections between the Brexit vote, Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica since the referendum in 2016.

Since then Facebook has been fined $5 billion by the FTC in the US for privacy violations, while Cadwalladr's TED talk, Facebook's role in Brexit – and the threat to Democracy, has been watched more than 2.3 million times.

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Meanwhile, an investigation into Banks’s millions of pounds in donations to the Leave.EU campaign was referred to the National Crime Agency in 2018 by a House of Commons select committee.

The Great Hack (2019) - pictured: David Carroll (Netflix)

In its referral, it said: “Arron Banks is believed to have donated £8.4 million to the Leave campaign, the largest political donation in British politics, but it is unclear from where he obtained that amount of money. He failed to satisfy us that his own donations had, in fact, come from sources within the UK.”

In a statement to The Observer, Banks did not specifically mention the documentary, but said: “I’m a great supporter of a free media and press. Unfortunately, Brexit has caused a breakdown in usual journalistic standards.

“What we won’t tolerate is outright lying or misrepresentation of the facts … Carole Cadwalladr will have to stand up her wild claims in court and face the consequences or apologise.”

The Great Hack will be available on Netflix from 24 July.