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Facebook executive grilled by unprecedented group of lawmakers from 9 countries

Facebook grilled on privacy, misinformation
Global lawmakers question Facebook on privacy, misinformation 04:45

One of Facebook's top European executives is appearing Tuesday morning before a first-of-its-kind gathering of legislators from nine nations, investigating the social media giant for its role in election meddling and spreading disinformation.

The lawmakers — from the U.K., Canada, Brazil, Latvia, Argentina, Ireland, Singapore, France and Belgium — have repeatedly asked for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before their "grand international committee." But Facebook announced last week it will be represented by Richard Allan, Facebook's vice president for public policy. 

Right from the start, Allan — who was seated next to an empty chair set aside by the committee for Zuckerberg — faced a heated exchange with Canadian Charlie Angus.

"I want to say how deeply disappointed we are for Mark Zuckerberg to ignore an invitation from so many nations," Angus said to start the meeting, before asking for an explanation of the decision-making that led the Facebook founder's absence from the hearing.

"I don't think we've ever seen a corporation under a spotlight like this," Angus continued.

The hearing comes just days after a British Member of Parliament seized a cache of documents from an American businessman. Facebook has spent months fighting in a California court to keep sealed. 

That businessman is app developer Ted Kramer, the founder of a company suing Facebook. He was in London last week when Parliament asked for the documents in a letter from Damian Collins, chair of Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

The documents were ruled sealed by a San Mateo, California Superior Court judge after months of legal wrangling between Facebook, Kramer's company Six4Three, and media organizations. But the California court has no jurisdiction in Britain.

Collins said Tuesday that he won't publish the documents today, but said there was one item from the cache that is "of considerable public interest."

"An engineer at Facebook notified the company in October of 2014 that an entity with Russian IP addresses had been using a Pinterest API key to pull over three billion data points a day," Collins said, before asking Allan if Facebook notified any external authorities.

Allan's response did not answer the question, but a Facebook spokesperson contacted by CBS News said Collins' revelation was taken out of context.

"The engineers who had flagged these initial concerns subsequently looked into this further and found no evidence of specific Russian activity," the spokesperson said.

Later in the hearing Ireland's Hildegarde Naughton pressed Allan on Facebook's decision to ban advertising around that country's national referendum on abortion.

"Was it not an admission" that fake news was being shared, she asked.

Allan replied by saying the company decided to discontinue all advertising related to the referendum because of how much spending was pouring in from outside the country.

In another terse exchange, Singapore's Edwin Tong asked why a post in Sri Lanka saying "kill all Muslims" was allowed to stay up, calling it an "egregious mistake." Tong said when a Sri Lankan government official pushed Facebook about the post, the company replied initially, "This post does not break any specific rules,"

Allan defended Facebook's efforts to contain hate speech on the platform, but said ultimately "I'm ashamed" of examples like the post in Sri Lanka.

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