Home Page Election 2019 News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In

Facebook’s games are getting as tiring as FarmVille

By Editorial      
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

There were a pair of empty chairs in a West Block committee room on May 28. The placards in front of the deliberately unoccupied chairs were to let everyone know that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg were blatantly missing in action.

The dynamic duo had been subpoenaed by the House Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics Committee to appear before them as they hosted the three-day International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy.

Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg did not bother to attend, or even RSVP, leaving committee members to find out through media reports that they were officially being snubbed.

Instead, Facebook sent public policy staff Kevin Chan and Neil Potts, who served to eat up time and offer talking points about why the company couldn’t, or wouldn’t, bring in the big guns to explain themselves.

This did not please the committee, which passed a motion that “on account of the refusal of Mr. Mark Zuckerberg and Ms. Sheryl Sandberg to appear before it on May 28,” directed Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, the committee chair, “to serve either or both with a formal summons should they arrive in Canada for any purpose to appear before the committee” either at the next meeting, or at a special meeting, if the House isn’t sitting.

That’s right, the committee essentially told the Facebook leaders to engage in a real-life game of Red Rover. This probably means that a summer vacation in Banff, Alta., is out of the question.

It’s a little bit jarring to see Facebook say with one side of its mouth that it’s doing everything it can to comply with Canadian direction as it pertains to democratic threats, while at the same time dodging Canadian and international officials who want clear answers.

Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould stood in the House on Monday and made a statement about efforts to keep the coming elections safe from cyber interference. She presented a new Declaration on Electoral Integrity Online, and said that both Microsoft and Facebook had already signed on in support. The declaration says that online platforms are expected to “help users to understand when and why they are seeing political advertising,” as well as “remove fake accounts and inauthentic content from their platforms.”

“Mr. Zuckerberg has stated his willingness to work with legislators but he seems to blow us off whenever it seems we want to ask him questions,” NDP MP and committee vice-chair Charlie Angus told the Canadian Press on Tuesday.

The committee still has the option of voting to recommend that the House of Commons find the pair of executives in contempt of Parliament.

Politicians lobbing questions at the Facebook representatives found themselves increasingly frustrated as Tuesday’s meeting went on, and it’s not likely that frustration is going to abate any time soon. Facebook should make a decision: either make a real effort to be a real part of the solution to the spreading of misinformation and hate, or simply stop pretending to care. No one is winning an Oscar for this act.

Explore, analyze, understand
CanCon Contributions & Quotas In a Digital Age
As part of Heritage Canada’s review of Canadian content in a digital age, various parties are proposing changes to how digital services are regulated and taxed.

Get the book
Rural Broadband: The challenges and potential solutions
A guide to the problems, work done so far, the key players, and what needs to be done to get all Canadians access to broadband.

Get the book
Election cybersecurity: a comprehensive look at the threats and solutions ahead of 2019
Election cybersecurity concerns in Canada.

Get the book
Related Policy Briefings
Defence Policy Briefing
Short and informative analyses on policy challenges that bring background and recommendations to policymakers, journalists and the general public.

Read policy briefing
Biotech Policy Briefing
Short and informative analyses on policy challenges that bring background and recommendations to policymakers, journalists and the general public.

Read policy briefing

Politics This Morning

Get the latest news from The Hill Times

Politics This Morning

Your email has been added. An email has been sent to your address, please click the link inside of it to confirm your subscription.

McKenna wins re-election in Ottawa Centre, trumpets voters’ support for climate fight

News|By Neil Moss
'I’m so relieved,' Catherine McKenna said, about continuing with the Liberal climate change plan.

Election 2019 was a ‘campaign of fear,’ say pollsters

'There may well be a message to this to the main parties, that slagging each other will only take you so far,' says Greg Lyle.

Election 2019 campaign one of the most ‘uninspiring, disheartening, and dirtiest’ in 40 years, says Savoie

News|By Abbas Rana
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says she has never seen an election where mudslinging overwhelmingly dominated the campaign, leaving little or no time for policy discussion.

Strategic voting to determine if Liberals will form government, say political players

News|By Abbas Rana
As many as nine per cent of progressive voters could vote strategically in this close election potentially affecting the outcome in more than 100 ridings, says Innovative Research president Greg Lyle.

Turkish offensive should pressure feds to act on repatriation of Canadian citizens in Kurdish-controlled ISIS detention camps, says expert

News|By Neil Moss
The issue of repatriation will be less politically fraught after the election, says expert.

Business tops experience among 2019 candidates, one-third have run for office before

Here’s an analysis of the record 1,700-plus candidates running for the six major parties this election.

Pod save us all: the growing role of political podcasts in election 2019

News|By Mike Lapointe
The Hill Times spoke with some podcast hosts taking a deeper dive into the political nitty-gritty, within a medium that only continues to grow in popularity.

No-shows from Conservative candidate could hurt party’s chances in tight Kanata-Carleton race, say politicos

News|By Palak Mangat
The Conservative's candidate, Justin McCaffrey, has skipped two events, including a debate on the environment, intended to feature all candidates.

For whom will the bell toll in Peterborough-Kawartha?

In a riding where voters are deeply engaged in the political process, candidates avoid the low-hanging fruit and stay out of the mud as they grapple with who to send to the House of Commons.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.