The Fifth Column 

A special International Joint Summons Aims to get more answers from Mark Zuckerberg

World (TFC) – For a few weeks earlier this year, the news was abuzz with the story of the large scale data misuse scandal between Facebook, and UK based political consultancy group Cambridge Analytica. You may remember it. Since that time, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has tried to dodge any summons by the UK Parliament to answer questions regarding data policies, internal governance practices, and Facebook’s agenda for ridding it’s website of disinformation, or “fake news.”

In an unprecedented move by the Parliaments of both the UK and Canada an international joint summons was officially given to Facebook last week requesting yet again that Zuckerberg appear and answer questions. Multiple world powers are vying for their opportunity to grill Zuckerberg regarding these topics. They may just get some more answers at the end of this month.


The United States Congress had their opportunity in April of this year. The meeting between Congress and Zuckerberg hinged mostly on the internal leak from whistleblower and former Director of Research at Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie. However, during those hearings, not much was suggested as far as reparations were concerned. It was the well polarized partisan attitude of Capitol Hill that was the key topic for most in attendance. A correspondent from Time magazine sums up the hearings well:

The problem, it seemed, were the senators questioning him. Rarely before has the senescence of this Senate — which, with an average age of 63, is the oldest in history — been so apparent. Their queries were clumsy, demonstrating limited fluency in the workings of social media and its jargon. When Zuckerberg’s replies were evasive, as they sometimes were, many of these lawmakers seemed ill-equipped to push back. At one point, Sen. Orrin Hatch, the 84-year-old Utah Republican set to retire this year, asked Zuckerberg how Facebook plans to stay free for its users. “Senator, we run ads.” Zuckerberg said flatly.

Or take for example the curious motive of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during the hearings. His main issue of concern was which side of the politics line Facebook stands. Suggesting that right wing pages, and users leaning to the right were being discriminated against by Facebook using a “pervasive pattern of political bias.”

Cruz made no mention about the rampant misuse of data that was the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Why would he? He spent almost $6 Million dollars with the firm in 2016 for the exact problem Facebook tried to hide, “data analysis and online advertising.” It seems that Cruz has tossed to the wayside those constituents who may have had their personal data misused. It is evidently more important to him that the political rhetoric and ideologies he shares are featured prominently on Facebook. Zuckerberg’s response to Cruz was short and more humorous than consoling as he reminded Senator Cruz that Silicon Valley in CA is “an extremely left-leaning place.”

While the political right wanted to grill Zuckerberg regarding making Facebook a left leaning paradise, the Democrats in the room had a different mission… Election meddling. Democrats seemed more interested in prying any information they could from the CEO regarding the alleged claims of Russian meddling of the 2016 presidential race. To which, Russia continues to vehemently deny any involvement. Fielding numerous haphazard questions from various Democrats, Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook is working with the Mueller investigation into election meddling. “I want to be careful here because our work with the special counsel is confidential,” he said. “And I want to make sure that in an open session I’m not revealing something that’s confidential.”

Not much came from the special hearings except a lot of apologies, and the remainder of the year would not show signs of relief for the social media giant.

Image Source: mkhmarketing, Flickr, Creative Commons
The Demise of Facebook

Mass Media Purge

Fast forwarding to more recent news. Facebook and Twitter have both taken up campaigns to rid their websites of so called “fake news.” Unfortunately for those users, that means having lost all content uploaded… Maybe Cambridge Analytica has a backup?

Alex Jones, Censorship, Free Speech, Social Media, You, and Us – Pontiac Tribune

On a more serious note though, the entirety of this development seems more to indicate the rampant issues of corporate money influencing the politics that affect everyday lives. A closed door meeting between major corporation owners, (Think Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Google, etc.) and federal officials earlier this year only adds mud to this murky scenario. While Facebook and Twitter have promised that their reason for ridding some users (which hurts the revenue they obtain) is strictly based on the spread of misinformation. The facts show that independent media seems to be the actual target of their purging. And it only helps develop more questions, than provide answers.

It’s no secret that corporate run news outlets have been steadily losing readership, while independent media has been steadily increasing their numbers of followers, and producers. In the months leading up to the mass purging of well established pages, independent media across the board started seeing significant decreases in ad-revenue… Despite little to no fluctuation in readership.

Looking at this as a broad picture, it’s easy to theorize that behind the scenes major social media sites are taking down popular independent media pages citing their practice as boasting false information. Could we then speculate that this recent purge of sites has been done strategically to hopefully usher the population back to main stream media sites, where the rhetoric is government approved? That’s all for theorizing for now, I promise. Back to facts.

An unofficial, but rather telling list of Facebook pages purged in the most recent wave can be viewed here.

UK/Canada Joint Summons

The Parliament of the United Kingdom seems adamant about questioning Mark Zuckerberg about misinformation sharing, and more importantly, the violation of privacy rights of millions of Facebook users. Who could blame them? The congressional probe from the US Government has provided more questions than answers.

Canada has a vested interest in questioning Zuckerberg, for the same reasons, and also because a domestic company by the name of AggregateIQ (AIQ), which is the data enterprise associated with Cambridge Analytica. AIQ developed the Cambridge Analytica system, and is one of it’s data handlers. AIQ has already been called into sessions of questioning by Canadian authorities. 

According to Christopher Wylie, AIQ built the ‘Ripon’ platform that Cambridge Analytica used to target people using misappropriated Facebook data.”

The special joint Parliamentary hearing has a scheduled date of November 27th at the Westminster Parliament.

Interestingly, Zuckerberg has not traveled to the UK, nor (at the time of writing this) responded to the summons request. A source of The Fifth Column wishing to speak anonymously offered some insight on a possible reason for such a delayed response, if any at all:

“The government here are openly hostile to this social media platform because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal…. There was talk about this a while back, in that, Parliament wanted Zuckerberg to appear before a Parliamentary Committee to explain himself and he refused. Although I wouldn’t actually accuse him of doing anything I couldn’t prove in court, the general consensus of opinion among his opponents was that he was afraid of the consequences if he was caught lying. The penalties here for lying to parliament are severe and can involve a custodial sentence, although such powers are rarely, if ever, invoked.”

The verbiage on issues regarding contempt at the Parliament reads:

Generally speaking any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or Officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.”  – Definition of contempt per factsheet G-06 of the House Disciplinary and Penal Powers UK.

It’s understood that there is a good deal of complicated information above to process while many accusations, and odd parallels exist. It’s highly encouraged that if you have read this far, you should click the hyperlinks associated, and read for yourself a bit further. With very little to draw a conclusion on, and future developments expected, a follow up article depicting the outcome of whatever proportion will be prioritized.

Read this far and want to go immediately delete Facebook? Earlier this year I highlighted some alternative social media sites up-and-coming for your browsing pleasure here.

By James Job – Contributor for The Fifth Column, and Editor at the Pontiac Tribune.

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