Facebook’s about-face

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a US committee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a US committee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.

There will be no face off against Facebook this Friday.

The social network has refused to front a federal parliamentary inquiry into foreign influence on social media.

How curious!

After pushing back their evidence from August to September, Mark Zuckerberg’s Aussie office has now asked to answer questions after Americans head to the polls in November, to pick whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be President.

Could the about-face have anything to do with Russia’s meddling or Cambridge Analytica’s data harvesting, both used to influence the 2016 election result?

The last-minute decision has been described as “disappointing” by committee chair, NSW Labor senator Jenny McAllister. About 85 per cent of Australians are on Facebook and yet McAllister claims the company appears “unwilling to participate in our processes of democratic accountability”.

Adding: “Facebook’s platform has been used by malicious actors to run sophisticated disinformation campaigns in elections around the globe.”

And: “The Australian public deserves to know how Facebook manages the risks their platform presents to our democracy and public discourse.”

But TikTok’s senior staff will be virtually front and centre in the Canberra Bubble™ on Friday at 2pm.

Director of public policy Brent Thomas, general manager Lee Hunter and chief security officer Roland Cloutier will be grilled at the public hearing.

Some Coalition MPs want Australia to follow America’s lead and ban the video app — owned by Beijing-based ByteDance and beloved by teens — down under.

TikTok counts 1.6 million Aussies among its 800m-plus global users. Its local branch has been on an advertising blitz and Hunter has personally written to every single federal MP to fend off safety, security and censorship concerns.

TikTok fears it will be used as a “political football”, like banned Chinese telco Huawei.

In a hint of what’s to come on Friday, Liberal deputy chair Jim Molan has previously labelled the app a “data collection service disguised as social media”. And we hear senators are keen to find out if there’s a secret CCP unit within the company.