Global MPs want to tighten the screw on Facebook

Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg

A British MP on Tuesday claimed Facebook knew about potentially malicious Russian activity in 2014, long before such activity becomes public, during a parliamentary hearing where global lawmakers grilled the company. After Zuckerberg repeatedly refused to attend questioning by that panel, the inquiry joined together with lawmakers from other countries to add weight to their calls for him to appear.

The event is being held just days after Britain's parliament seized confidential Facebook documents from the developer of a now-defunct tech firm, a move that was considered unusually aggressive.

Facebook says it complies with European Union data protection laws, but Allan admitted it had made mistakes. One regulator pointed out that new documents indicate that an engineer notified Facebook of a Russian IP address pulling data in 2014.

According to the Guardian, the documents were initially obtained during a legal discovery process by the now-defunct USA software company Six4Three, which is currently suing Facebook.

The nine countries in total represent more than 446 million people - and have grappled firsthand with the real-world consequences of social media's digital ills.

Collins said the committee would not release the documents on Tuesday.

"The engineers who had flagged these initial concerns subsequently looked into this further and found no evidence of specific Russian activity", a Facebook spokesperson told TIME, while also alleging that the documents had been selectively leaked by a party trying to sue the company.

Politicians from Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Latvia and Singapore converged at the British Parliament to press Facebook policy head Richard Allan on what they called an undermining of democratic institutions.

US Supreme Court weighs antitrust dispute over Apple App Store

"We have to start looking at a method of holding you and your company to be accountable, because Mr. Zuckerberg, who is not here, doesn't appear to be willing to do the job himself", Angus said. The intended was to grill Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over the company's scandals involving fake news.

British select committees are used to investigate major issues and have the powerful - from CEOs to government officials - explain their decisions in a public forum.

Allan responded by saying that he wasn't in a position to respond to claims in the seized documents, but warned anything gleaned from them was "at best partial and at worst misleading".

In a statement, Facebook said, "We looked into this at the time and determined that the calls to the API [Facebook system] were all legitimate API calls from Pinterest and not from Russian Federation".

Allan said there have been a "number of actions taken" against developers but added, "I don't have in front of me today all of the answers to all of the questions". Facebook's policy chief apologized to the committee for Zuckerberg's absence. "To the extent this is all clarified and we have a clear playbook to work from, that would be very helpful", he said. In August, Facebook temporarily suspended over 400 apps over concerns they may have mishandled users' personal data.

Six4Three obtained the internal Facebook emails through legal mechanisms in the United States, where the company is involved in court action against the social media giant.

At the hearing, Allan answered a question from a Canadian representative about whether Facebook would entertain antitrust regulation.




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