Lawmakers from nine countries grilled a Facebook executive on Tuesday, 27 November, as part of an international hearing at Britain's parliament on disinformation and ‘fake news’.
Richard Allan, Facebook's vice president for policy solutions, answered questions in London in place of his boss, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who ignored repeated requests to appear.
Allan, sitting next to an empty chair reserved for Zuckerberg, said the Facebook founder and CEO had already appeared before numerous other committees this year. He acknowledged that the company has not been without blame in how it handled various scandals.
"I'm not going to disagree with you that we've damaged public trust with some of the actions we've taken," he said.
Allan was responding to Canadian lawmaker Charlie Angus, who said the social media giant has "lost the trust of the international community to self-police," and that lawmakers have to start looking at ways to hold the company accountable.
Various points were raised during the hearing which went on for more than a couple of hours in UK, for which even representatives from Singapore flew down from the other side of the world.
British lawmakers were joined by their counterparts from eight other countries at the hearing held by the parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee and were highly concerned about Facebook’s use of data, its privacy controls and mechanism in place to monitor hatred activities on its platform.
Zuckerberg accepts that what's needed is "a regulatory framework and action by responsible companies like ours - it's the two in tandem," Allan said.
He also said that Settings/control users had over the privacy on the platform was sufficient enough, according to the social networking giant. He further reiterated that “we are simplifying the process in 2018” which in reality should have been done way back in 2009.
However, the Facebook executive did avoid couple of questions raised by some of the members present at the hearing. Interestingly, India did not have any participation, even after being one of biggest market for Facebook, with more than a billion users on the platform. All this leads to a greater need for data privacy laws in the country, which is only likely to come through by mid-2019.
The hearing comes after the committee's chairperson, Damian Collins, took the unusual move of forcing the CEO of an app maker to turn over confidential Facebook documents.
Most members in unison were disappointed that Zuckerberg wasn’t here, which to them “speaks as a failure to act accountable for everything that has happened over the past few year”. Allan admitted to have “volunteered to be present in front of everyone today and is likely to be part of similar hearings in the near future as well.
(With inputs from AP)