Nov 25, 2018

3. Parliament seizes Facebook records as firm faces global trust crisis

Illustration: Caresse Haaser, Sarah Grillo / Axios

The U.K. Parliament has seized internal Facebook documents in an unusual move to answer questions it feels the company has been dodging, the Guardian reports.

Why it matters: Pressure has been mounting on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify in front of the members of Parliament and other world leaders for weeks, but Zuckerberg has repeatedly turned down such requests.

Details: The files reportedly contain "significant revelations" about Facebook decisions on data and privacy control, as well as correspondence between top executives, per the Guardian.

  • Damian Collins, chair of Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, invoked a rare parliamentary mechanism to force the founder of a U.S. software company to hand over the documents while on a business trip to London.
  • In a dramatic and unusual move, a serjeant at arms was sent to the founder of Six4Three's hotel and ordered him to hand over the documents or face fines and, potentially, imprisonment, according to the report.
  • The documents were obtained by Six4Three in a separate legal process, according to the Guardian, which caught the attention of U.K. officials. In its own legal fight, Six4Three alleges Facebook was aware of privacy problems and actively exploited them.
  • In a comment to the Guardian, Facebook says that Six4Three’s “claims have no merit, and we will continue to defend ourselves vigorously.” It adds, “The materials obtained by the DCMS committee are subject to a protective order of the San Mateo Superior Court restricting their disclosure. We have asked the DCMS committee to refrain from reviewing them and to return them to counsel or to Facebook. We have no further comment.”

Background: Facebook has faced pressure to be more transparent with officials around the world, and particularly in the U.K. and EU, over how it handles an array of issues, like data privacy, election meddling and terrorist content.

  • On Friday, The Washington Post reported that Zuckerberg declined to testify at a rare joint hearing with lawmakers from seven countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Latvia, Singapore and the U.K.
  • Lawmakers had been lobbying Facebook to appear for weeks, even launching a Twitter campaign to get people to retweet their plea to have Zuckerberg testify.
  • Facebook will be sending Richard Allan, vice-president for policy, in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in Zuckerberg’s stead, as confirmed by the Washington Post and TechCrunch.
  • Last week British members of parliament urged advertisers to boycott Facebook and Google over their alleged inability to contain terrorist content.

Be smart: It's unusual for countries from four different continents to band together in an effort to hold a U.S.-based company accountable for its actions in this way. The move suggests that Facebook's public relations crisis in the U.S. is spilling over globally.

Between the lines: An article published earlier this month by the New York Times suggested that Facebook's top executives sought to deflect blame for a growing number of problems on its platform.

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has since denied that the company intentionally ignored or sought to hamper investigations into those problems. But the allegations in the article have so far been enough to rattle lawmakers.
  • Facebook released a memo the evening before Thanksgiving in the U.S. that conceded executives may know more about the hiring of a controversial public relations firm that top executives initially denied knowing about.

Bottom line: Facebook's year of controversies in the U.S. might be the beginning of many more to come abroad.

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Trump's new purge

Michael Atkinson, arrives in October for closed-door questioning about the whistleblower complaint. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sources close to President Trump expect him to fire more inspectors general across his government, after his Friday night removal of Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community I.G. who alerted Congress to the complaint that triggered impeachment.

What they're saying: Conservative allies of the president have told him that these I.G.s are members of the “deep state” trying to undermine him. Trump appears to have embraced that view.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Axios Visuals

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 a.m. ET: 1,140,327 — Total deaths: 60,887 — Total recoveries: 233,930Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 a.m. ET: 278,568 — Total deaths: 7,163 — Total recoveries: 9,920Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The federal government will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured.
  4. 2020 latest: "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said of the 2020 election, as more states hold primaries by mail. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that every county in the state has opted to expand mail-in voting for the state's June 2 primary.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: A pivotal Monday meeting among oil-producing countries to discuss supply curbs is reportedly being delayed amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  7. Military updates: Senators call for independent investigation into the firing of Navy captain of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. The U.S. military is struggling to find new recruits as enlistment stations are shut down.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: New York reports record 630 deaths in 24 hours

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New York reported 630 new deaths in 24 hours, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday — an "all-time increase" that beat the previous day's record of 562 deaths in one day.

The big picture: As expected, COVID-19 death tolls are rising in the U.S., killing more than 7,100 people in total, and over 1,000 in 24 hours alone. The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread, marking a significant change in messaging from the Trump administration.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 58 mins ago - Health