The international grand committee of elected officials that excoriated the absent Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his company’s recent issues with personal information could be coming to Canada this spring, the chair of Canada’s House of Commons privacy committee has revealed.
Conservative MP Bob Zimmer said while it is still in the planning stages, he’s hoping to have a meeting of the International Grand Committee on Disinformation and ‘Fake News’ in Ottawa in late May.
“We’re going to involve a little bit of Facebook, but we’re going to go a bit further,” said Zimmer. “We want to build on the legacy that was established in London.”
The first meeting of the grand committee took place in London, UK in November, when MPs arranged for an empty chair at the committee table to draw attention to Zuckerberg’s absence after he declined an invitation to appear. Richard Allan, the vice-president for policy solutions at Facebook, took the CEO’s place and parried barbed questions from politicians from nine different countries.
Zuckerberg will be invited to the meeting in Canada, but Facebook said it had no comment on whether he would attend.
Zimmer said he couldn’t go into details about what the committee will discuss before the meeting was officially scheduled, but said “it’s looking exciting what we’re planning to do.” He expects that the countries who attended the first meeting will be invited again and potentially more countries could be in attendance this time.
The grand committee was assembled after countries around the world struggled to get key players like Zuckerberg to testify as part of legislative-branch investigations into the Cambridge Analytica breach of personal information that was exposed last year. Eighty-seven million people worldwide were caught up in the incident, with about 600,000 Canadians affected.
In Canada, the House privacy committee pursued its own investigation into Cambridge Analytica and had been working in tandem with the British digital committee. By combining those two investigations, along with those of seven other countries, the politicians hoped to give the Facebook CEO a single venue to testify.
“I am growing increasingly troubled by the lack of respect Mr. Zuckerberg and Facebook continue to show our nations,” Zimmer said at the time said in response to Zuckerberg’s rejection.
The co-operation between the UK committee and the Canadian has been a key feature of the investigation, as the two countries grappled with tech companies that do business on a massive, global scale. Much of the committee’s dealing centred on a tiny Canadian political consulting firm, AggregateIQ, that was linked to Cambridge Analytica and has been accused of breaching campaign spending rules in the Brexit referendum.
Although the House privacy committee released its final report on the breach in December, Zimmer expects to continue investigating the issue, especially with regards to possible election meddling through social media. Canadians will go to the polls in October this year.
That committee’s report called for some major changes to how social media sites function.
The MPs urged the government to require social media platforms to create a searchable and “user-friendly” database to allow users to see who is buying political ads and whom they are targeting. The report also recommended “algorithmic transparency” that would allow regulators to audit the code beneath features like the Facebook news feed.
It also called for rules that would require social media platforms to remove illegal content quickly or face “monetary sanctions commensurate with the dominance … of the social platform.”
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