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More Facebook Jail; International Lawmakers' Hearing on Facebook in UK: Venting Anger at Mark Zuckerberg's Empty Chair

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Reflecting on Mark Scott's 11/28 Politico article

[Evidently, this very article by me got me put back in Facebook Jail the very next day it was published. Was it this article or was it the very short poll from Democracy for America asking who are your favorite top 3 candidates for President in 2020, a perfectly legitimate and straightforward poll, but it evidently went against Facebook's "Community Standards," or maybe against some conservative algorithm robots sense of right and wrong?~ Please watch for another new article by me soon on this subject. Here is the poll by the way, if you want to weigh in on this, with currently Bernie is at 28%, Biden at 16% and Beto at 14%: ]


In a hearing held at the British parliament Tuesday over two hours, international parliamentarians from eight nations questioned a senior Facebook executive, Richard Allan, Facebook's vice president of policy solutions and a member of the British House of Lords, over Facebook's role in misinformation, election meddling and the company's enormous role and effects in Western democracy.

With an empty chair standing in for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who declined an invitation to attend the event, their questions ranged from whether the tech giant should be broken up to the need for curtailing its data collection practices. In order to shame Zuckerberg for not showing up, the officials inscribed Zuckerberg's name on the empty chair at the hearing.

Bob Zimmer, a Canadian politician, manifested the anger from the lawmakers, a few of which have held separate hearings into Facebook in their national parliaments. "What do you say to our 400 million constituents that you are taking this seriously?" Zimmer asked Allan, who repeatedly said "I'm sorry" in different ways. "You are still downplaying FB's role. You still don't grasp the influence you have on election campaigns."

Allan's polished veneer almost cracked when asked by one of the lawmakers what it looked like when the company's 34-year-old boss failed to show up for a hearing with politicians from countries whose combined Facebook user numbers totalled more than 400 million people, more than the population of the United States. Allan's short response, which received guffaws from the U.K. parliamentary hearing room, was: "Not great."

Parliamentarians from Ireland, Britain, Singapore, Argentina, Brazil, Latvia, France and Belgium hammered Allan with questions aimed at extracting information about how the company collects, stores and uses people's digital information. They berated Facebook for not doing enough to tackle the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, to stop misinformation from spreading during electoral campaigns, and to maintain adequately transparent corporate practices.

"Political accounts have had an influence on elections," Julie Elliot, a British MP, told the hearing. "They have destabilized democracies."

Consistently, Allan challenged such claims, though admitting that Facebook has not done enough in the past to clamp down on these kinds of excesses. He stated that there was no doubt that people were still using Facebook to promote hate speech, racism, and polarizing political messages. "We will continue to discover groups of people who are doing things that they shouldn't be doing at election time," he told the lawmakers.

Much depends on how the officials follow up on the international hearing -- the group of global officials has no legal authority.

Even in the United States where Facebook originated, in a response to my own inquiry about whether Facebook Jail and its restrictions about posting to Facebook groups constitute any actionable violation of the First Amendment, the Federal Communications Commission responded that it might sympathize, but that it has no statutory authority over Facebook or any other social media network.

Some of the nations (for example: France and Singapore) are presently developing statutes regarding "fake news" legislation.

Hildegarde Naughton, an Irish politician at the hearing, said that it requires international coordination to bring the power of global companies like Facebook to heel. She was appointed Chair of the Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment in April 2016.

"It's an enormous task in front of us," she said. "We can't work in silos; this is the world wide web."

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Early in the 2016 Primary campaign, I started a Facebook group: Bernie Sanders: Advice and Strategies to Help Him Win! As the primary season advanced, we shifted the focus to advancing Bernie's legislation in the Senate, particularly the (more...)

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