Mark Zuckerberg will not answer MPs’ questions despite being issued with a formal summons
Facebook today announced that Mark Zuckerberg will not be appearing before MPs following the Electoral Commission’s appearance in front of the DCMS select committee today. Jeff Silvester, Chief Operating Officer of AIQ, the Canadian data company faced with allegations of illegal campaign coordination in the referendum with Vote Leave, BeLeave and several other campaign groups is set to appear before the committee tomorrow.
Facebook failed to answer some of the DCMS select committee’s key questions of how UK Facebook users were manipulated and influenced in the 2016 referendum. Some of the most important questions, such as from where AIQ received their data for who to target or how much overlap there was between the ads AIQ made for Vote Leave, BeLeave, Veterans for Britain and the DUP Vote to Leave went unanswered. Hopefully Mr Silvester will shed some much needed clarification on these vital inquiries.
Kyle Taylor, Director of The Fair Vote Project, said “No one is shocked that Zuckerberg has refused to stand before Parliament to explain the potentially illegal conduct of his company, conduct that may have allowed others to heavily manipulate voters during the Brexit referendum and thereby making a mockery of our democratic processes. And once again, shows how little respect Facebook has for the countries they operate in and the citizens’ data they use to profit from. It has been nearly two years since the referendum. The fact that Facebook still cannot provide the DCMS select committee with exactly what ads UK Facebook users saw leading up to the referendum is disgraceful. Elections have long lasting consequences and if Facebook and other social media companies can not quickly and efficiently pinpoint when their advertisers are breaking local electoral laws or spreading misinformation, we must ensure that regulatory bodies like the Electoral Commission have the power to intervene in a meaningful way.
The Electoral Commission’s testimony today to the DCMS select committee said that if reform was to happen it needs to be wholesale to be effective, this is something we are backing. Their suggestions for reform match what The Fair Vote Project is calling for: namely, fines that fit the crime rather than the current cap that is seen by many to simply be the cost of doing business, greater enforcement powers, ideally prosecutorial powers and a better way of reporting spending. The Fair Vote Project believes a report-as-you-spend system should be put in place to ensure transparency and fairness in real time.
It’s been months since the revelations from whistleblowers were made public and yet nothing has changed, cheating can still happen in elections and referenda – as we see happening in Ireland right now. There needs to be immediate, wholesale reform of the institutions entrusted to make sure our elections are free and fair so that we no longer need to rely on whether or not Facebook deigns to get its house in order or turn up for questioning.”
The Fair Vote Project was set up to tackle this issue head-on. Our whistleblower secure channels are open to anyone who has evidence of cheating by any party in the referendum. We are committed to securing a fair vote and ensuring the Electoral Commission is fit for purpose in a digital age.
The Fair Vote Project has taken the decision to publish the whistleblower evidence for everyone to see. The evidence we have so far can be seen on our website, because the public deserve to know the truth about what’s happening in our democracy.