Because Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most powerful people in the world, exercising almost singlehanded control over a network of more than two billion people, it can be a bit tough to get a moment of his time. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to snag him for a conversation on his “Okay, This Time I’m Really Sorry — I Promise” tour, but that’s a big if.
Should you be a member of the UK’s parliamentary committee conducting a lengthy inquiry into fake news and Facebook’s role in political upheaval, it can still be tough to get Zuckerberg’s ear. The CEO continually refused invitations to appear before Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, instead sending subordinates who were also not great at answering the committee’s questions. He was even threatened with being found in contempt of parliament.
Now it appears that the UK might finally have gotten Mr. Zuckerberg’s ear. This week, the Guardian reports, Zuckerberg is set to meet with UK culture secretary Jeremy Wright in California. All it took for Wright to land the 30-minute meeting was an 18-month government investigation and the publication of a withering 111-page report earlier this week.
The report, which covers a range of topics, summarizes the Cambridge Analytica scandal this way:
The scale and importance of the GSR/Cambridge Analytica breach was such that its occurrence should have been referred to Mark Zuckerberg as its CEO immediately. The fact that it was not is evidence that Facebook did not treat the breach with the seriousness it merited. It was a profound failure of governance within Facebook that its CEO did not know what was going on, the company now maintains, until the issue became public to us all in 2018. The incident displays the fundamental weakness of Facebook in managing its responsibilities to the people whose data is used for its own commercial interests.
Based on internal emails the committee seized from another app developer, Six4Three, the report concluded, “It is evident that Facebook intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws.” It continues, “Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law.”
If I can’t put on my analysis hat for a second: not a great week for Mark Zuckerberg’s The Facebook!
“The era of self-regulation is coming to an end but I still want to see innovative solutions on online harms being put forward by the industry,” Wright, the culture secretary, said this week. “I look forward to meeting Mr Zuckerberg to discuss what more Facebook can do to help keep people safe on their platforms, as we prepare a new regulatory framework that will reinforce Facebook’s and other tech firms’ responsibility to keep us safe.”