Monday

20th May 2019

British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule

  • Mark Zuckerberg in 2011, on a visit to the Elysee in France (Photo: Cyril Attias)

The Cambridge Analytica scandal showed a "profound failure of governance within Facebook", members of the British House of Commons have concluded in a report published on Monday (18 February).

MPs on the digital, culture, media and sport committee said the data breach was so big and important that it "should have been referred to Mark Zuckerberg as its CEO immediately".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"The fact that it was not is evidence that Facebook did not treat the breach with the seriousness it merited," the MPs wrote.

Cambridge Analytica was a company which mined data from Facebook users to target political advertising, without those users knowing.

"It was a profound failure of governance within Facebook that its CEO did not know what was going on, the company now maintains, until the issue became public to us all in 2018," the British MPs noted.

"The incident displays the fundamental weakness of Facebook in managing its responsibilities to the people whose data is used for its own commercial interests," the report said.

The British MPs said the scandal showed Facebook needed to be regulated more tightly.

They pointed to new rules in Germany and France as positive examples.

Since one year ago, tech companies are required by German law to remove hate speech from their website within 24 hours or risk a fine of €20m.

"As a result of this law, one in six of Facebook's moderators now works in Germany, which is practical evidence that legislation can work," said the report.

Although Facebook has publicly stated it would be open to "the right kind of regulation", MPs did not believe the US tech company really was.

"Despite all the apologies for past mistakes that Facebook has made, it still seems unwilling to be properly scrutinised," the report said.

MPs were particularly annoyed by CEO Zuckerberg's refusal to appear in front of its committee.

They reminded that Australian national Rupert Murdoch was willing to give evidence to a UK inquiry into a phone hacking scandal, and that it was "considered common practice for foreign nationals to give evidence before committee".

He was asked to appear in front of a committee of MPs not only from the House of Commons, but also from other countries, including Belgium, France, Ireland, and Latvia.

Zuckerberg decided to send lower-ranked executives instead.

"By choosing not to appear before the committee and by choosing not to respond personally to any of our invitations, Mark Zuckerberg has shown contempt towards both the UK parliament and the 'international grand committee', involving members from nine legislatures from around the world," the report said.

MPs said they had "no doubt" that there was a deliberate strategy behind the way Facebook dealt with the inquiry.

"Facebook used the strategy of sending witnesses who they said were the most appropriate representatives, yet had not been properly briefed on crucial issues, and could not or chose not to answer many of our questions," the report said.

"They then promised to follow up with letters, which - unsurprisingly - failed to address all of our questions," it added.

Facebook has some 250m users in the EU - around half of the population. The Cambridge Analytica scandal affected some 2.7 million users in the EU. It also possibly influenced the Brexit vote.

EU data chiefs rally behind UK over Cambridge Analytica

EU leaders at a Brussels summit demand social networks and digital platforms guarantee transparency and privacy. Their call comes amid growing backlash against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica over voter manipulation.

EP in blame game on Zuckerberg meeting format

[UPDATED] Last month's 'hearing' with Facebook CEO allowed him to give only general or evasive answers about the data breach scandal involving Cambridge Analytica - partly due to the controversial format of the meeting.

EU leaders to have first talk on bloc's next top jobs

The discussion in Sibiu will focus on the 'how', rather than the 'who', on a successor to Jean-Claude Juncker. EU leaders will also have to decide on Donald Tusk's successor, the next EU's foreign affairs chief, and ECB president.

News in Brief

  1. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day
  2. EU to freeze money and visas of foreign cyber-attackers
  3. EU reassures US on arms sales
  4. Use euros over dollars in energy contracts, France says
  5. UK cross-party Brexit talks collapse
  6. Climate activists occupy German-Russian gas pipeline
  7. Farage got €515,000 of private perks
  8. French EU commissioner urges Italy not to overspend

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us