- Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer endured a bruising encounter with British lawmakers on Thursday as he was questioned about data and fake news crises.
- One parliamentarian said Facebook reminded him of Matt Taibbi’s famous “vampire squid” quote about Goldman Sachs in a 2009 Rolling Stone article.
- Schroepfer said: “We feel a deep responsibility to solve these problems.”
Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer was subjected to a brutal interrogation at the hands of British lawmakers on Thursday.
Schroepfer appeared before the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to explain Facebook’s response to a sequence of data, privacy, and fake news scandals.
In one particularly bruising exchange, Labour MP Paul Farrelly said a famous quote about Goldman Sachs came to mind when he thinks about Facebook.
Turning to American author and journalist Matt Taibbi’s 2009 attack on Goldman Sachs in Rolling Stone, he read the article’s opening gambit:
“The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”
Farrelly added: “Is it a concern to you that, in terms of this inquiry, that story pops into my head, and the thought is planted that for Goldman Sachs read Facebook?”
Schroepfer visibly took a breath before addressing the question. He said he understood the “scepticism” and attempted to reassure the lawmakers that Facebook is working to protect people’s data and secure the integrity and sanctity of elections.
“We feel a deep responsibility to solve these problems,” Schroepfer said. “I can only tell you what’s in my heart, which is I do really care about these things, I do really want to get them right. They are hard problems, we are humans we all make mistakes, but we are dedicated to trying to solve these things.”
Other brutal exchanges included another lawmaker comparing Facebook to cigarettes, and repeated efforts to get Schroepfer to explain and apologise for threatening The Guardian newspaper with legal action after Facebook learned about the Cambridge Analytica data breach.
BuzzFeed tech reporter Ryan Mac, who was in London for the hearing, said there was a stark difference in approach taken by British lawmakers compared to those in the US during Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional appearances earlier this month.
My assessment from covering US and UK gov inquiries on FB:
The Parliamentary DCMS committee are more prepared than Senate/House committees, which were a zoo with too many reps involved. The best thing is that the MPs build off one another's questions and don't seem too partisan.
— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) April 26, 2018
The grilling was still ongoing at the time of publication. It was expected to last for five hours.