Facebook denies ‘Russian activity’ on network in 2014, despite MP’s claim

Marsha Scott
November 30, 2018

Summarizing an element of the documents, Collins said that "an engineer at Facebook notified the company in October 2014 that entities with Russian IP addresses had been using a Pinterest API key to pull over 3 billion data points a day through the Ordered Friends API".

In a statement regarding the documents, which Mr. Collins said he needed more time to look over, Facebook said in a statement that the "the engineers who had flagged these initial concerns subsequently looked into this further and found no evidence of specific Russian activity".

Concerns over the social media giant's practices, the role of political adverts and possible foreign interference in the 2016 Brexit vote and US elections are among the topics being investigated by British and European regulators.

Richard Allan, Facebook's vice-president of policy solutions, appeared in Zuckerberg's place.

The Liberal Democrat peer and Facebook executive faced stern questioning on Tuesday over a range of criticisms including recent data breaches, allegations of business malpractice, repeated electoral interference and the rampant spread of disinformation and hate speech on the platform.

Allan said the documents were "a partial set of information that was obtained by a hostile litigant".

The British lawmaker who seized a cache of confidential Facebook documents says he could make them public within a week.

Damian Collins, a member of Britain's House of Commons who convened and chaired the hearing, lamented a "consistent pattern of Facebook failing to disclose" critical information to regulators.

Collins - the Conservative politician leading a United Kingdom parliamentary investigation into fake news - last week seized a cache of highly sensitive Facebook papers from Ted Kramer, the founder of a software company who himself obtained the documents by suing Facebook in California.

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Details from the seized documents were referred to in a fiery International Grand Committee hearing chaired by Collins on Tuesday, with representatives from nine countries present.

Collins' committee is now combing though the documents, but there is a large number and some will require redactions before they're made public, he said.

In a statement, Facebook said, "We looked into this at the time and determined that the calls to the API [Facebook system] were all legitimate API calls from Pinterest and not from Russian Federation".

Allan said that Facebook would welcome clear laws globally around political communication and was willing to accept some further regulation.

Angus said he was not suggesting to turn off the internet, but that antitrust may be a way for governments to hold Facebook to corporate accountability standards.

Ted Kramer founded Six4Three with an app called Pikinis that combed Facebook pages for photos of women in bikinis.

Charlie Angus, a lawmaker from Canada, said that humanity had "never seen anything quite like Facebook" before, Reuters news agency reported.

Allan said there have been a "number of actions taken" against developers but added, "I don't have in front of me today all of the answers to all of the questions". In August, Facebook temporarily suspended over 400 apps over concerns they may have mishandled users' personal data.

On multiple occasions during the two-and-a-half hour hearing, Allan was unable to provide answers to questions posed by lawmakers.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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