Pressure grows on Facebook chief Zuckerberg to answer questions about fake news
Senior politicians from Australia, Ireland and Argentina join Britain and Canada in calling on the Silicon Valley CEO to give evidence.
Politicians from around the world have joined Britain in calling for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to answer questions about his platform’s role in the spread of disinformation and fake news.
Senior figures from Australia, Ireland and Argentina have come together after Facebook refused the request from the UK and Canada for Mr Zuckerberg to appear before an “international grand committee” on the subject scheduled for November 27.
Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said Mr Zuckerberg’s response “is not good enough”.
“By dismissing our request, Facebook is failing to acknowledge its line of accountability not only to legislators, but to its users worldwide.
“There remain serious questions to be answered about what measures Facebook is taking now to halt the spread of disinformation on its platform and protection for user data.”
Facebook say that they remain committed" to working with our committees "to provide any additional relevant information" that we require. Yet they offer no means of doing this. The call for accountability is growing, with representatives from 5 parliaments now meeting on the 27th pic.twitter.com/VJFtpqUi0r— Damian Collins (@DamianCollins) November 7, 2018
In declining the initial request, sent on October 31, Facebook UK’s head of public policy Rebecca Stimson said the company will “continue to co-operate fully with relevant regulators”.
She wrote: “As your letter states, it is not possible for Mr Zuckerberg to be available to all parliaments.
“While he is unable to accept your invitation we continue to fully recognise the seriousness of these issues and remain committed to working with you to provide any additional relevant information you require for your respective inquiries.”
Facebook has grappled with a string of scandals in recent years as evidence has emerged of political actors using the network to influence voters around the world.
The social media giant was fined £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office in July, the maximum fine possible, for failing to protect millions of users’ personal information which ended up in the hands of controversial election consultants Cambridge Analytica.
A week later the Electoral Commission fined Brexit campaign groups Vote Leave and BeLeave, and referred them to police for breaches in campaign spending centred around political advertising on Facebook.
This year, the company also released details of “inauthentic co-ordinated activity” on the platform originating from Russia and Iran which targeted British and American politics.
Taking Down Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior from Iran https://t.co/taM2znMTN1— Facebook Newsroom (@fbnewsroom) October 26, 2018
The new letter said: “You appeared before committees of the US Congress and Senate, as well as the European Parliament.
“As the chairs of the relevant committees in the UK, Canadian, Australian, Argentinian and Irish parliaments, we believe that you owe Facebook users in our countries the same line of accountability.”
Mr Collins and Bob Zimmer, chairman of the Canadian parliament’s committee on access to information, are joined in the letter by Leopoldo Moreau, president of the committee on freedom of expression of the chamber of deputies in Argentina, James McGrath, chairman of the joint standing committee on electoral matters in Australia, and Hildegarde Naughton, head of the joint committee on communications, climate action and environment in Ireland.
They have given Mr Zuckerberg until November 12 to respond.
Mr Collins said: “Mark Zuckerberg has set himself the personal challenge of ‘fixing’ Facebook this year to prevent its misuse in our democratic process.
“By being unwilling to face questions about his progress, doubts about his ability to do so remain.”