Tuesday October 15, 2019
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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 Raises Questions Over EU Ruling on Removing Content

In a public Q&A, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said that the ruling sets a "very troubling precedent"

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Corporate, America, Climate Change
FILE - In this April 30, 2019, file photo, Facebook stickers are laid out on a table at F8, Facebook's developer conference in San Jose, Calif. The Boston-based renewable energy developer Longroad Energy announced in May that Facebook is building a… VOA

Facebook has raised objections over the European Union (EU) ruling that the bloc’s member countries can not only order the removal of content in their own jurisdiction, but all over the world.

According to the social networking giant, the ruling opens the door for courts to order the removal of content that is similar to the illegal speech, “meaning that something you posted might be removed even if you knew nothing about the earlier post that a European country had deemed illegal”.

“Imagine something you wrote and shared on Facebook was taken down, not because it violated our rules, and not because it broke the law in your country, but because someone was able to use different laws in another country to have it removed,” Monika Bickert, VP, Global Policy Management at Facebook, said in a statement on Monday.

“Imagine as well that your speech was deemed illegal not by a judge who carefully weighed the facts, but by automated tools and technology,” she added.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Facebook can be forced to remove content internationally.

The ruling arose from a personal defamation case brought by an Austrian politician.

The post in question shared a news article in which the Austrian politician had outlined her and her party’s views on immigration, together with a comment from a Facebook user strongly critiquing the Austrian politician.

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An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

The court’s ruling raises critical questions for freedom of expression, in two key respects, said Bickert.

First, it undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on another country.

“This is especially important with laws governing speech, because what is legally acceptable varies considerably in different parts of the world and even within the EU. The ruling also opens the door for other countries around the world, including non-democratic countries who severely limit speech, to demand the same power,” said Facebook.

Second, the ruling might lead to a situation in which private internet companies could be forced to rely on automated technologies to police and remove “equivalent” illegal speech.

Also Read: 5G Carries Potential to Contribute to India’s GDP Growth by the Year 2025

In a public Q&A, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said that the ruling sets a “very troubling precedent”.

“We have had precedents but we have successfully fought them. This is one where a lot of the details of exactly how this gets implemented are going to depend on national courts across Europe, and what they define as the same content versus roughly equivalent content.

“This is something we and other services will be litigating and getting clarity on what this means. I know we talk about free expression as a value and I thought this was a fairly troubling development,” Zuckerberg added. (IANS)