For Facebook, political pressure mounts on Mark Zuckerberg – CNET

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Several senators have called for Mark Zuckerberg to speak about Facebook’s political issues.

James Martin/CNET

Mark Zuckerberg’s name is ringing across Capitol Hill again, as politicians demand the Facebook founder testify to Congress in the wake of the social network’s scandal with a data firm affiliated with the Donald Trump campaign.

Facebook on late Friday disclosed that researchers from UK-based Cambridge Analytica had duped the social networking giant and stolen access to data from more than 50 million Facebook users through an app called “thisisyourdigitallife,” which was then used for political ads during the 2016 presidential election.  

Facebook said in a statement on Friday that it banned the group, but the political pressure on the massive social network is just beginning. By Monday morning, multiple senators have demanded that Zuckerberg testify before Congress.

An appearance from Zuckerberg could potentially offer more straight answers at a time when Facebook has gotten in hot water over its involvement with the distribution of Russia-made ads and posts on its network. But it’s unclear whether it’ll happen. 

While the government has summoned Facebook multiple times, Zuckerberg himself has never testified on these issues. In the past, Facebook has sent its general counsel Colin Stretch, Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management and other executives not named Mark Zuckerberg.

But the demand for Facebook’s CEO continues to rise. On Saturday, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) tweeted out that “Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before the Senate Judiciary.”

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

Klobuchar added to her demand on Monday morning, telling NPR’s Morning Edition that Zuckerberg needs to speak for Facebook’s flaws.

“They have not come before us, they’ve given it to their lobbyists and their lawyers, and we think that they need to take responsibility for what’s going on,” Klobuchar said. “I don’t know why this CEO, even though he’s super famous and has made a lot of money, why he also doesn’t have to come before the committee.”  

She pointed out that multiple CEOs have testified to Congress in the past, and said the chances of Zuckerberg appearing increase if more politicians call for it. She’s not the only one speaking out.

The Federal Election Commission also called for Zuckerberg, as well as Larry Page, CEO of Google parent Alphabet, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify before a public hearing set on June 27.

“Your perspective would be of great value to the Commission and to the nation,” Ellen Weintraub, the FEC’s vice chair said in her letter to Zuckerberg.

In a joint letter with Klobuchar, Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, has also called for Zuckerberg to testify, and asked the Senate Judiciary committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, to call for a hearing.

“While this Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism convened a hearing with witnesses representing Facebook, Twitter, and Google in October of 2017, we have yet to hear from the leaders of these companies directly,” Kennedy and Klobuchar wrote.

The letter also asks for CEOs from Google and Twitter.

Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, also made the same request. The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee told Bloomberg that “the CEOs owe an obligation.”  

In a statement released on Saturday, Warner said called the online political ads market “the Wild West” after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“Whether it’s allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it’s clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency,” Warner said.

On Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), wrote a letter to Zuckerberg, asking for the CEO to explain how Facebook’s data was abused by Cambridge Analytica.

“With little oversight — and no meaningful intervention from Facebook — Cambridge Analytica was able to use Facebook-developed and marketed tools to weaponize details psychological profiles against tens of millions of Americans,” Wyden wrote in his letter.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California on the House Intelligence Committee, called for Cambridge Analytica to testify to Congress, as well as Facebook and Zuckerberg.

“I think it would be beneficial to have him come testify before the appropriate oversight committees,” He told the Washington Post.

The pressure isn’t just coming from DC. Damian Collins, the chair of the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Parliament committee, said they are requesting both executives from Cambridge Analytica and Facebook speak on the issue.

“I will be writing to Mark Zuckerberg asking that either he, or another senior executive from the company, appear to give evidence in front of the Committee as part of our inquiry,” Collins said in a statement.

The European Union has also launched an investigation into Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, according to a statement from Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament president. 

Updated at 10:35 a.m. PT: To include a letter from Sen. Ron Wyden.