British Parliament seizes Facebook documents in ‘unprecedented move’

British Parliament seizes Facebook documents in ‘unprecedented move’
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British Parliament on Sunday obtained a trove of internal documents from Facebook related to claims about the company's user privacy policies and allegations that CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Civil rights groups demand changes to Facebook's political speech policy Hillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day MORE sought to drive competitors out of business.

The Guardian reported that the materials may include communications between Zuckerberg and other company executives. The documents stem from a lawsuit in California by Ted Kramer, the owner of software company Six4Three, which alleges that Facebook is "the biggest violator of data misuse in the history of the software industry."

Damian Collins, the chairman of parliament's culture, media and sport select committee, used a rare government procedure to compel Kramer to turn over the documents he'd obtained as part of his lawsuit while he was in London on business.


“We are in uncharted territory,” Collins said, according to The Guardian. “This is an unprecedented move but it’s an unprecedented situation. We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest.”

Lawmakers obtained the documents ahead of a Tuesday hearing focused on disinformation. Parliament had asked Zuckerberg to attend, but the social media giant instead opted to send one of its deputy officials.

Richard Allan, the company's vice president of policy solutions, is due to attend instead. In a letter to Collins sent Sunday, Allan argued the Six4Three lawsuit is "entirely without merit" and is "more about attacking our company than it is about a credible legal claim."

Allan added that the California court handling the Six4Three lawsuit had ruled the documents in the case were sealed. He told Collins he expects to receive guidance from the judge on what he can and can't discuss before Parliament on Tuesday. 

The company has been at the center of a firestorm in recent days following a New York Times report that said the platform's leadership was slow to confront Russian efforts to exploit the platform for election meddling, and that it hired a public relations firm to accuse liberal financier George Soros of funding some of the groups that were speaking out against Facebook.

Updated at 3:20 p.m.