March 4, 2019
Leaked internal Facebook documents reportedly suggest that the company initiated secretive worldwide lobbying efforts to gain influence from hundreds of regulators and legislators across nations including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Malaysia, all 28 member states of the European Union, the United States and United Kingdom. Reports indicate the social giant promised investments and incentives to politicians in hopes of getting their support for Facebook’s opposition to data privacy legislation.
“The documents appear to emanate from a court case against Facebook by the app developer Six4Three in California,” reports The Guardian, “and reveal that [Sheryl] Sandberg considered European data protection legislation a ‘critical’ threat to the company.”
According to The Guardian, the documents provide specifics regarding how Facebook:
- Lobbied politicians across Europe in a strategic operation to head off “overly restrictive” GDPR legislation. They include extraordinary claims that the Irish prime minister said his country could exercise significant influence as president of the EU, promoting Facebook’s interests even though technically it was supposed to remain neutral.
- Used chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s feminist memoir Lean In to “bond” with female European commissioners it viewed as hostile.
- Threatened to withhold investment from countries unless they supported or passed Facebook-friendly laws.
A Facebook spokesperson explained that the documents in question remain under seal in a California court, adding: “Like the other documents that were cherrypicked and released in violation of a court order last year, these by design tell one side of a story and omit important context.”