Facebook has yet again declined an invitation for its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to answer international politicians’ questions about how disinformation spreads on his platform and undermines democratic processes.
But policymakers aren’t giving up — and have upped the ante by issuing a fresh invitation signed by representatives from another three national parliaments. So the call for global accountability is getting louder.
Now representatives from a full five parliaments have signed up to an international grand committee calling for answers from Zuckerberg, with Argentina, Australia and Ireland joining the UK and Canada to try to pile political pressure on Facebook.
The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee has been asking for Facebook’s CEO to attend its multi-month enquiry for the best part of this year, without success…
In its last request the twist was it came not just from the DCMS inquiry into online disinformation but also the Canadian Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.
This year policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic have been digging down the rabbit hole of online disinformation — before and since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted into a major global scandal — announcing last week they will form an ‘international grand committee’ to further their enquiries.
The two committees will convene for a joint hearing in the UK parliament on November 27 — and they want Zuckerberg to join them to answer questions related to the “platform’s malign use in world affairs and democratic process”, as they put it in their invitation letter.
Facebook has previously despatched a number of less senior representatives to talk to policymakers probing damages caused by disinformation — including its CTO, Mike Schroepfer, who went before the DCMS committee in April.
But both Schroepfer and Zuckerberg have admitted the accountability buck stops with Facebook’s CEO.
We are accountable
In addition to comprehensive privacy reviews, we put products through rigorous data security testing. We also meet with regulators, legislators and privacy experts around the world to get input on our data practices and policies.
The increasingly pressing question, though, is to whom is Facebook actually accountable?
But the rest of the world continues being palmed off with minions. Despite some major, major harms.
Facebook’s 2BN+ user platform does not stop at the US border. And Zuckerberg himself has conceded the company probably wouldn’t be profitable without its international business.
Yet so far only the supranational EU parliament has managed to secure a public meeting with Facebook’s CEO. And MEPs there had to resort to heckling Zuckerberg to try to get answers to their actual questions.
“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,” tweeted DCMS chair Damian Collins today, reissuing the invitation for Zuckerberg. “The call for accountability is growing, with representatives from 5 parliaments now meeting on the 27th.”
The letter to Facebook’s CEO notes that the five nations represent 170 million Facebook users.
“We call on you once again to take up your responsibility to Facebook users, and speak in person to their elected representatives,” it adds.
The UK’s information commissioner said yesterday that Facebook needs to overhaul its business model, giving evidence to parliament on the “unprecedented” data investigation her office has been running which was triggered by the Cambridge Analytica scandal. She also urged policymakers to strengthen the rules on the use of people’s data for digital campaigning.
Last month the European parliament also called for Facebook to let in external auditors in the wake of Cambridge Analytica, to ensure users’ data is being properly protected — yet another invitation Facebook has declined.
Meanwhile an independent report assessing the company’s human rights impact in Myanmar — which Facebook commissioned but chose to release yesterday on the eve of the US midterms when most domestic eyeballs would be elsewhere — agreed with the UN’s damning assessment that Facebook did not do enough to prevent its platform from being used to incite ethical violence.
The report also said Facebook is still not doing enough in Myanmar.