The vital questions Mark Zuckerberg must answer | Carole Cadwalladr

Facebook’s founder will finally answer questions in the Senate. What would we ask him here?

As the Cambridge Analytica data scandal continues to unfold, Mark Zuckerberg has finally bowed to public pressure and will appear before a Senate and House committee this week to answer questions.

Three times, Damian Collins, the head of the parliamentary fake news inquiry, has asked him to answer MPs’ questions. Three times, he’s refused. Instead, his chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, will appear on 26 April.

Here are some questions for Zuckerberg that we have in Britain have no hope of ever telling us the answers to.

1) You have turned down parliament’s request to answer questions about Facebook’s role in our referendum three times. What gives?

It was a polite request. If you were a British citizen or a British company, parliament could compel you. That you’ve refused – three times – raises urgent questions about the use of your platform as a political campaign tool in this country. You are a foreign asset.

You may have played a hugely significant role in our democracy and you are refusing to co-operate with our legislators. Why? You will answer to US lawmakers but not to ours? Why should we allow you to operate within our borders if you won’t respect our institutions? If we can’t hold you to account? Do we need to treat you like any other hostile actor?

You’re more powerful than most nation states and you may have played a consequential, maybe pivotal, role in the most important election of our lifetime. Don’t you think you could at least get on a plane?

2) The last time you sent one of your executives to parliament, he told MPs Cambridge Analytica had no Facebook data. Thoughts?

3) Who saw what Facebook adverts during the referendum and why?

We need full transparency. It is not acceptable that our democracy is seemingly being conducted in the darkness of Facebook’s black box. You need to publish these in a public forum. You need to reveal to users who targeted them, based on what data. Legislators and academics and journalists and the public need full and open access to everything you have. This needs to be retrospective as well as ongoing.

4) Did campaigns co-ordinate? Can we see your servers?

In the early hours of yesterday morning, you suspended AIQ from your platform to investigate information that suggested it was affiliated with Cambridge Analytica and may have had access to Facebook data.

This is the data firm that is at the heart of Brexit. It received 40% of Vote Leave’s budget and was used by a further three campaigns: BeLeave, Veterans for Britain and the Democratic Unionist party. The bedrock of our electoral laws is controlling money in elections and a key principle of this is that campaigns don’t co-ordinate. Did they? Would there be evidence on your servers? Can you look at the data flows? Did AIQ create custom audiences? If so, can we see them?

5) When did you personally learn that Cambridge Analytica had millions of Facebook profiles?

You claimed last week you had no idea the company was involved in US politics. But when the Guardian published its exposé in December 2015, Cambridge Analytica made clear it was working for Ted Cruz. You say: “They weren’t an advertiser.” But Facebook ads were a key tool for the Cruz campaign. Are there discrepancies here? You say:“They were not a player that we had been paying attention to.” Can you confirm no Facebook employees were in touch with the Cruz campaign?

6) You referred a lot to Aleksandr Kogan last week, who harvested the data on Cambridge Analytica’s behalf. But you failed to mention Dr Kogan’s business partner, Joseph Chancellor, who now works for Facebook. Why?

He went to work for Facebook right before the scandal broke in 2015. He still works for you. What does he know? Have you asked him?

7) You said last week: “Life is about learning from the mistakes and figuring out what you need to do to move forward.” This is not about you. Can you not see that?

This is bigger than you, bigger than any of us. It’s about the 87 million Facebook users whose profiles were harvested on Cambridge Analytica’s behalf. It’s about the two billion users whose data has probably been scraped. It’s about if democracy can survive the age of big tech.

It’s not a blip in your personal journey. You created a world-changing platform. Now the world has changed. It’s time for others to reckon with that.

• Carole Cadwalladr is an Observer journalist


Carole Cadwalladr

The GuardianTramp

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