The committees are investigating the impact of online disinformation on democratic processes and want Zuckerberg to answer questions related to the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook user data misuse scandal, which both have been probing this year.
More broadly, they are also seeking greater detail about Facebook’s digital policies and information governance practices — not least, in light of fresh data breaches — as they continue to investigate the democratic impacts and economic incentives related to the spread of online disinformation via social media platforms.
In a letter sent to the Facebook founder today, the chairs of the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee and the Canadian Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (SCAIPE), Damian Collins and Bob Zimmer respectively, write that they intend to hold a “special joint parliamentary hearing at the Westminster Parliament”, on November 27 — to form an “‘international grand committee’ on disinformation and fake news”.
“This will be led by ourselves but a number of other parliaments are likely to be represented,” they continue. “No such joint hearing has ever been held. Given your self-declared objective to “fix” Facebook, and to prevent the platform’s malign use in world affairs and democratic process, we would like to give you the chance to appear at this hearing.”
Both committees say they will be issuing their final reports into online disinformation by the end of December.
The DCMS committee has already put out a preliminary report this summer, following a number of hearings with company representatives and data experts, in which it called for urgent action from government to combat online disinformation and defend democracy — including suggesting it look at a levy on social media platforms to fund educational programs in digital literacy.
Although the UK government has so far declined to seize on the bulk of the committee’s recommendations — apparently preferring a ‘wait and gather evidence’ (and/or ‘kick a politically charged issue into the long grass’) approach.
Meanwhile, Canada’s interest in the democratic damage caused by so-called ‘fake news’ has been sharpened by AIQ, the data company linked to Cambridge Analytica, as one of its data handlers and system developers — and described by CA whistleblower Chris Wylie as essentially a division of his former employer — being located on its soil.
The SCAIPE committee has already held multiple, excoriating sessions interrogating executives from AIQ, which have been watched with close interest by at least some lawmakers across the Atlantic…