Yesterday in Singapore was the first time a Facebook executive underwent special scrutiny by a governmental committee since news broke out about the breach of data from 50 million user accounts. The New York Times and The Guardian reported about the shady psych-ops tactics allegedly employed by data analytics firm Cambridge Analytics (CA), which harvested Facebook data from millions of users unethically obtained by Cambridge psychology researcher, Aleksandr Kogan.
But the ongoing CA saga wasn’t the reason for the formation of Singapore’s Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods which, if you didn’t know, is an assembly of politicians studying the spread of fake news online, and what kind of legislation (if needed) should be proposed to tackle its potential threat to national security.
Still, the CA saga came to the utmost forefront of discussions during a special Parliamentary hearing yesterday. Executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter appeared before the committee among scores of other experts, academics, and activists called to testify over eight days. Facebook’s Vice President of Public Policy for Asia-Pacific, Simon Milner, was firmly targetted by committee member and Minister for Law K Shanmugam, who grilled the executive for about three hours.
As you can see below, things got real heated throughout the course of over an hour — here was Milner taken off guard by one of Singapore’s toughest counsels.
As reported by AFP and BBC reporters yesterday through live tweets, Milner appealed to committee chairman Charles Chong that actual questions about fake news in Singapore be asked instead of deep probes into the CA controversy.
The law minister, however, shot back that his line of questioning was required to look at Facebook’s past conduct and how it plays a part in the government’s trust in the company.