UK parliament seizes confidential Facebook documents to look into 'fake news'

Published November 26, 2018
Britain's parliament has seized confidential Facebook documents from the developer of a now-defunct bikini photo searching app. — Reuters/File photo
Britain's parliament has seized confidential Facebook documents from the developer of a now-defunct bikini photo searching app. — Reuters/File photo

Britain's parliament has seized confidential Facebook documents from the developer of a now-defunct bikini photo searching app as it turns up the heat on the social media company over its data protection policies.

A British lawmaker took the unusually aggressive move of forcing a visiting tech executive to turn over the files ahead of an international hearing that parliament is hosting on Tuesday to look into disinformation and "fake news".

The parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has "received the documents it ordered from Six4Three relating to Facebook," Committee Chairman Damian Collins tweeted on Sunday, adding that he had already reviewed them.

"Under UK law and parliamentary privilege we can publish papers if we choose to as part of our inquiry."

The app maker, Six4Three, had acquired the files, which date from 2013-2014, as part of a United States lawsuit against the social media giant.

It's suing Facebook over a change to the social network's privacy policies in 2015 that led Six4Three to shut down its app, Pikinis, which let users find photos of their friends in bikinis and bathing suits by searching their friends list.

Collins, a critic of social media abuses and manipulation, is leading the committee's look into the rise of "fake news" and how it is being used to influence political elections.

Lawmakers from seven countries are preparing to grill a Facebook executive in charge of public policy, Richard Allan, at the committee's hearing in London.

They had asked for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear in person or by video, but he has refused.

The UK committee used its powers to compel the chief executive Six4Three, Theodore Kramer, who was on a business trip to London, to turn over the files, according to parliamentary records and news reports.

The committee twice requested that Kramer turn over the documents.

When he failed to do so, Kramer was escorted to parliament and told he risked imprisonment if he didn't hand them over, the Observer newspaper reported.

Facebook wants the files to be kept secret and a judge in California ordered them sealed earlier this year.

The judge is expected to give guidance on the legal status of the documents as early as Monday, Allan wrote in a letter to Collins.

"Six4Three's claims are entirely meritless," Facebook said in a statement.

Opinion

Editorial

Election time
Updated 27 Jan, 2023

Election time

There are concerns whether the ECP will be sufficiently able to protect the integrity of elections if they are held under partisan governments.
SCO invite
27 Jan, 2023

SCO invite

THOUGH India’s invitation to Pakistan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation events in Goa later this ...
Call to arms
27 Jan, 2023

Call to arms

ONE way the state abdicates responsibility in Pakistan is by farming out its functions to the private sector. In ...
Nuclear miscalculations
26 Jan, 2023

Nuclear miscalculations

IF the claim of former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, that Pakistan and India came close to a nuclear exchange...
Exchange rate cap
26 Jan, 2023

Exchange rate cap

THE ‘management’ of the exchange rate by the State Bank, allegedly at the behest of the government, to ward off...
Fawad’s arrest
Updated 26 Jan, 2023

Fawad’s arrest

Does the state really need to fan public discontent in a period as fraught with uncertainty as this?