An international effort to investigate disinformation through social media platforms and tech giants has gained its first US legislator as a member, adding weight to requests for US-based tech executives to appear as witnesses before the committee, according to Tech Crunch.
The next meeting of the International Grand Committee on Disinformation and ‘Fake News’ is set to take place in Dublin on November 7th. US Congressman David Cicilline will join the meeting as its first legislator from the US, committee chair Hildegarde Naughton announced Thursday.
In Congress, Cicilline is chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee. He will attend the international committee as an “ex officio” member, with the power to question witnesses.
The committee’s two prior meetings, in London and Ottawa, have included representatives from European nations including the UK, Germany, Ireland, and Estonia, as well as from Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Singapore, and other nations. Tech companies including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple also sent representatives, although some were criticized for failing to take the inquiry seriously by sending top executives.
Tech giants have been widely criticized for failing to curb misuse and manipulation of their platforms.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was invited to attend the committee’s first meeting last November, but Richard Allan, the company’s UK policy vice-president attended instead. Allan was questioned by legislators over how Facebook’s platform allows disinformation to spread unchecked, affecting elections, stifling democracy, and providing a platform for hate speech.
At the following meeting in Ottawa last May, Facebook again declined to send top executives like Zuckerberg or COO Sheryl Sandberg. In response, Canadian MPs voted to serve the executives with an open summons, an unusual step requiring them to appear before parliament the next time they enter the country.
“The Dublin meeting will be really significant in that it will be the first time that US legislators will participate,” according to Naughton. “As all the major social media/tech giants were founded and are headquartered in the United States it is very welcome that Congressman Cicilline has agreed to participate. His own Committee is presently conducting investigations into Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple and so his attendance will greatly enhance our deliberations.”
She also pointed out that the committee now represents 730 million citizens around the world, demanding “their right to online privacy and security.”
Photo by Anthony Quintano from Honolulu, HI, United States [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]