Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg has been most reluctant to appear before the Commons DCMS committee to talk about, well, anything. And especially Cambridge Analytica. But maybe that will change, after the Observer told readers “Parliament has used its legal powers to seize internal Facebook documents in an extraordinary attempt to hold the US social media giant to account after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly refused to answer MPs’ questions”. Wait, what?
“The cache of documents is alleged to contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is claimed they include confidential emails between senior executives, and correspondence with Zuckerberg”. Sounds tasty. But how did Parliament get hold of them?
“Damian Collins, the chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, invoked a rare parliamentary mechanism to compel the founder of a US software company, Six4Three, to hand over the documents during a business trip to London. In another exceptional move, parliament sent a serjeant at arms to his hotel with a final warning and a two-hour deadline to comply with its order. When the software firm founder failed to do so, it’s understood he was escorted to parliament”. You’re nicked, my son!
And while Facebook has said “The materials obtained by the DCMS committee are subject to a protective order of the San Mateo Superior Court restricting their disclosure. We have asked the DCMS committee to refrain from reviewing them and to return them to counsel or to Facebook. We have no further comment”, the article notes “It is unclear what, if any, legal moves Facebook can make to prevent publication”. Well, well.
Small wonder the reaction of observers has been so sceptical. On Facebook invoking the privilege of the San Mateo Court, Ian Lucas, who sits on the DCMS committee, responded “Too late”. Whistleblower Chris Wylie mused “Let’s see if Mark Zuckerberg is now more keen to fly to the UK Parliament to fetch them”. And John Mellor made the obvious quip “Wow. Just imagine that for a minute. Facebook want their data back”.
Andy Reeve, meanwhile, considered the dilemma Facebook find themselves confronted with, now the boot is so firmly on the other foot. “Oh dear. It would appear that the train has already left that particular station. Never mind. The problem with data is that it is soooo hard to control its circulation. Oh yes, FB would know that, wouldn’t they???”
As to the reach of the San Mateo Superior Court, Fionna O’Leary wasn’t so sure. “Does the SAN Mateo Superior Court have jurisdiction over the U.K. Parliament? I think not”. And Tom Watson, who shadows the DCMS brief for Labour, concluded “Is there a more arrogant company than @facebook? Still, they have managed to unite all sides of British politics. Quite a feat in the current times we’re living through”.
Also, CNN is now on the case, noting “CNN and The Guardian newspaper … filed a joint court motion in June for the documents to be made public”. At least this time the BBC has actually reported the story. Which makes a pleasant change.
Next thing you know, they’ll apologise to Carol Cadwalladr. Maybe not just yet, mind.
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