Tonight and tomorrow, Facebook-CEO Mark Zuckerberg will answer questions of a US Congress committee on the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. However, Zuckerberg declined an invitation to the UK House of Commons. Therefore, Sven Giegold and Jan Philipp Albrecht wrote to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani that the Parliament should insist on inviting Mark Zuckerberg personally to the hearing organised by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO).
Sven Giegold, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for transparency, accountability and integrity, comments:
“The European Parliament must insist that 500 million EU citizens receive answers from Mark Zuckerberg. European Facebook users and citizens must not be treated as second class by Zuckerberg. Who answers the US Congress must also appear in front of Parliaments in Europe. European citizens deserve answers on the misuse of facebook for political campaigning during elections in Europe and the Brexit referendum.
The Facebook scandal could have played in the Brexit referendum results, election campaigns in the Czech Republic and possibly in more EU member states. These allegations go far beyond the issue of protection of personal data and the regulation of online companies. They go to the heart of democracy: the legitimacy of democratic votes.”
BACKGROUND: our letter to European Parliament president Tajani
Dear President Tajani,
Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg testifies tonight in a hearing before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. In Mr Zuckerberg’s written testimony to the US Congress, published in advance at http://docs.house.gov/meetings/IF/IF00/20180411/108090/HHRG-115-IF00-Wstate-ZuckerbergM-20180411.pdf he elaborates on the misuse of Facebook by Cambridge Analytica and Russian interference in US elections. While US citizens will receive some answers on questions concerning threats to their democracy, Mr Zuckerberg does not elaborate on questions as to the role the Facebook scandal could have played in the Brexit referendum results, election campaigns in the Czech Republic and possibly in more EU member states. These allegations go largely beyond the issue of personal data protection and online companies regulation. They go to the heart of democracy: the legitimacy of democratic votes. In the case of the Brexit referendum, given the narrow gap between the remainers and the brexiters, they demonstrate that a private company may have, by breaching some fundamental rules, influenced the issue of one of the recent most important votes for the future of the EU and of the UK citizens.
Our European Parliament is already planning a hearing by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) on the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. For this upcoming hearing, we would like to insist to invite Mark Zuckerberg personally. European citizens have a right to know what Cambridge Analytica has done precisely. Facebook has to explain how exactly their platform was and is being used for political campaigning purposes. Mr Zuckerberg rightly states in his written testimony for the US Congress that he is the most responsible person to give these answers. To the US Congress he writes “I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
European Facebook users and citizens should not be treated as second class. Unfortunately, while agreeing with the US Congress invitation, Mr Zuckerberg declined the invitation by the UK House of Commons. The European Parliament should insist that 500 million European citizens receive answers on the integrity of our elections in Europe, the Brexit referendum and our European democracy.
With kind regards
Jan Philipp Albrecht