British lawmakers visited Washington D.C. this week and participated in a hearing on fake news. Several of the visiting politicians blasted the company during the meeting, comparing its treatment of users to an “abusive relationship” and questioning what the site does with so much user information.
“Isn’t Facebook a massive surveillance operation?” British MP Rebecca Pow asked. Another MP, Jo Stevens, said that the power imbalance between Facebook and its users is so great that Facebook is able to exercise “coercive control” and establish an “abusive relationship” with users.
Of course, another issue that came up was the controversy over foreign powers using Facebook ads to influence elections. That’s illegal in the UK, but Facebook said it can’t be held responsible for accepting foreign payments. However, MP Ian Lucas said that by doing so, Facebook is “facilitating an illegal act.”
“This is the problem: You have all this information,” he said. “We have none of it, because you won’t show it to us.”
It’s encouraging that all this public and political pressure seems to be getting to Facebook; over the past year, the company has been forced to answer more than ever for its own behavior. And even if actual change is slow to happen, the more Facebook is publicly held accountable, the better.