NDP Member of Parliament (MP) Charlie Angus wants Canada’s lobbying commissioner to investigate Facebook after news of leaked documents showed the company the company met with Conservative MPs without reporting it.
Angus wrote in a letter to Nancy Bélanger on March 4th indicating his concern of the social media giant not following the lobbying rules.
“My concern with Facebook…is that we are seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of surreptitious, unregistered high-level contacts with government going back years and spanning two different governments of different partisan stripes,” Angus wrote.
“I am even more concerned given the huge economic power of Facebook to have government policies bend to their policy preferences.”
The specific documents were revealed that Facebook told the federal government it would build a data centre in Canada in exchange for the guarantee that they would not have control over data belonging to non-Canadians.
In the memo from 2013, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg had pushed then-industry minister Christian Paradis to issue a letter that would promise the Canadian government would not ask to take control of any of this data.
The memo was discovered in internal Facebook documents the British Parliament seized as part of an investigation.
These documents also showed the lengths at which Facebook took to try and coerce the government. Marnie Levine, Facebook’s former vice-president of global public policy, said Paradis’ staff was making up some of the meetings, which “made us look like real jerks.”
It went on to say that she and her staff drove to where then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet members were and tried to distract a staffer and officials so Levine could get cellphone numbers of three government ministers. “We were out of there in 20 minutes,” she wrotee.
It’s important to note that in Canada there are very specific legal rules that requires companies to follow.
Rules include registering the lobbyist, whether it is a person from the company or someone speaking on behalf of the company. Registering the highest person in that company, and registering all forms of meetings with the lobbyists’ registry.
Angus told the CBC that this type of behaviour is consistent with Facebook.
“I think what’s clear is that Facebook has a casual contempt for domestic laws wherever they operate. We really need to have a lobbying investigation into Facebook to see how they managed to skirt the lobbying rules in order to strong-arm government into getting their way,” he said.