A grand committee of international parliamentarians empty-chaired Mark Zuckerberg at a hearing earlier today, after the Facebook founder snubbed repeat invitations to face questions about malicious, abusive and improper uses of his social media platform — including the democracy-denting impacts of so-called “fake news.”
The U.K.’s DCMS committee has been leading the charge to hold Facebook to account for data misuse scandals and election interference — now joined in the effort by international lawmakers from around the world. But still not by Zuckerberg himself.
In all, parliamentarians from nine countries were in the room to put awkward questions to Zuckerberg’s stand-in, policy VP Richard Allan — including asking what Facebook is doing to stop WhatsApp being used as a vector to spread political disinformation in South America; why Facebook refused to remove a piece of highly inflammatory anti-Muslim hate speech in Sri Lanka (until the country blocked access to its platform); how Facebook continues to track non-users in Belgium and how it justifies doing so under Europe’s tough new GDPR framework; and, more generally, why anyone should have any trust in anything the company says at this point — with the company neck-deep in privacy and trust scandals.
The elected representatives were collectively speaking up for close to 450 million people across the U.K., Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Latvia and Singapore. The most oft-repeated question on their lips was why wasn’t Zuckerberg there?