You know you’re in a bit of hot water when your company is being investigated by lawmakers on two different continents on the same day. So last Tuesday was not a great day if you’re Mark Zuckerberg – or the people that work for him.
“Facebook is under intense political pressure around the world, with hearings on both sides of the Atlantic today that challenge its commitment to treating users fairly,” writes Sara Fischer in Axios Media Trends.
She believes that the scrutiny may actually increase, even as Facebook fumbles to defend their practices and policies. Meanwhile, the inquiries mount. In the U.S. it seems we’ve gotten quite used to big companies getting hauled in front of congressional or regulatory hearings. But what’s going on in the U.K. Parliament is something else altogether.
“Over the weekend, the U.K. Parliament seized internal Facebook documents in an unusual move aimed at answering questions it feels the company has been dodging,” Fischer writes. “The files reportedly contain ‘significant revelations’ about Facebook decisions on data and privacy control, per the Guardian. But the story of just how Parliament got the documents is crazy, no matter what the papers actually show. (You can read about that here.)”
The interest extends beyond just the U.S. and U.K., Fischer explains, noting that lawmakers from nine separate countries are in on the action in Parliament. And they are not happy.
“While we were playing on our phones and apps, our democratic institutions… [were] upended by frat boy billionaires from California,” said Charlie Angus, the vice chair of a top privacy committee in Canada, who criticized Zuckerberg for his decision to “blow off” the hearing,” according to the Washington Post.
The consumer crisis in confidence has been the big news … up till recently with political pressures mounting. Facebook reportedly lost around 2.8 million users under the age of 25 in North America last year. And overall Facebook usage dropped this year for the first time ever, according to Jay Baer, citing the 2018 Infinite Dial Report.
Around the same time that report came out, Facebook stock fell off a cliff, too, coinciding with the Cambridge Analytics data scandal.
This time it feels different though. These are high-profile accusations of data misuse and poor policy that have made measurable impacts on social and political issues the world over. Yes, Facebook aims to “connect the world,” and it did in many ways. At the same time, it opened all of us to the darker forces online who used the platform not just to profit from us, but to manipulate us.
For his part, Zuckerberg continues his “no one cares” attitude, not even taking the time to show up in Parliament at his own hearing…
“It’s unusual for countries from four different continents to band together in an effort to hold a U.S.-based company accountable for its actions in this way. The move suggests that Facebook’s public relations crisis in the U.S. is spilling over globally,” Fischer writes.
I believe it was Voltaire (or Peter Parker’s uncle maybe) who first said: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Facebook is answerable for what’s been wrought in its name. He should at least have the decency to show up.