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Facebook, Zuckerberg Criticized For Allegedly Undermining Democratic Institutions

Legal documents reviewed by Reuters show how the investigation by British lawmakers has led them to seize documents relating to Facebook.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. VOA

Facebook came under fire on Tuesday from lawmakers from several countries who accused the firm of undermining democratic institutions and lambasted chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for not answering questions on the matter.

Facebook is being investigated by lawmakers in Britain after consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, obtained the personal data of 87 million Facebook users from a researcher, drawing attention to the use of data analytics in politics.

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The nameplate of political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, is seen in central London, Britain. VOA

Concerns over the social media giant’s practices, the role of political adverts and possible interference in the 2016 Brexit vote and U.S. elections are among the topics being investigated by British and European regulators.

While Facebook says it complies with EU data protection laws, a special hearing of lawmakers from several countries around the world in London criticized Zuckerberg for declining to appear himself to answer questions on the topic.

“We’ve never seen anything quite like Facebook, where, while we were playing on our phones and apps, our democratic institutions… seem to have been upended by frat-boy billionaires from California,” Canadian lawmaker Charlie Angus said.

“So Mr. Zuckerberg’s decision not to appear here at Westminster [Britain’s parliament] to me speaks volumes.”

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Avaaz campaigners hold a banner in front of 100 cardboard cutouts of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington. VOA

Documents

Richard Allan, the vice president of policy solutions at Facebook who appeared in Zuckerberg’s stead, admitted Facebook had made mistakes but said it had accepted the need to comply with data rules.

“I’m not going to disagree with you that we’ve damaged public trust through some of the actions we’ve taken,” Allan told the hearing.

Facebook has faced a barrage of criticism from users and lawmakers after it said last year that Russian agents used its platform to spread disinformation before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, an accusation Moscow denies.

Allan repeatedly declined to give an example of a person or app banned from Facebook for misuse of data, aside from the GSR app which gathered data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Also Read: Social Media Laws Should Be Tightened: Germany

Legal documents reviewed by Reuters show how the investigation by British lawmakers has led them to seize documents relating to Facebook from app developer Six4Three, which is in a legal dispute with Facebook.

Damian Collins, chair of the culture committee which convened the hearing, said he would not release those documents on Tuesday as he was not in a position to do so, although he has said previously the committee has the legal power to. (VOA)

Next Story

Facebook Tracking Location Data of Users Who Threaten its Employees

Facebook has 2.7 billion users across its services.

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Facebook
Facebook has been monitoring and tracking locations of those users who can pose threat to its employees or physical properties. Pixabay

Facebook has been monitoring and tracking locations of those users who can pose threat to its employees or physical properties, the media reported.

According to a report in CNBC on Thursday, the tracking of users begins when the Facebook security team finds they are making “credible threats on its social network”.

The tracking is done by using location data taken from the user’s Facebook app or an IP address collected by the social network when a user is active on Facebook.

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Facebook CEO receives threatening comments from users.

The locations of users are only accessible after they were placed on a ‘Be On the Lookout’ (BOLO) list after their threats are deemed credible. The list is updated nearly once a week.

“The company mines its social network for threatening comments, and in some cases uses its products to track the location of people it believes present a credible threat,” said the report.

Facebook has 2.7 billion users across its services. “That means that if just 0.01 per cent of users make a threat, Facebook is still dealing with 270,000 potential security risks, the report added.

Users who publicly threaten the company — including posting threatening comments to company executives like CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg — are added to the list.

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Facebook has 2.7 billion users across its services. Pixabay

“Our physical security team exists to keep employees safe,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

ALSO READ: Facebook Negotiating Multi-billion Dollar Fine With US Agency: Report

“We have strict processes designed to protect people’s privacy and adhere to all data privacy laws and Facebook’s terms of service. Any suggestion our onsite physical security team has overstepped is absolutely false,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Depending on the threat, Facebook’s security teams can take other actions, such as stationing security guards, escorting a BOLO user off campus or alerting law enforcement. (IANS)