Hello and welcome to our weekly travel media and technology bulletin featuring the latest developments on media and technology around the world, published every Tuesday at 06:00 GMT.
Facebook in the dock
Make no doubt about it, Facebook is in serious trouble on both sides of the Atlantic.
This follows revelations that Cambridge Analytica is alleged to have mined data from some 50 million unwitting users of the platform. This was done via a Facebook app thisisyourdigitallife designed by an intermediary that posed psychological quizzes to users that chose to download it.
Facebook announced late on Friday evening (US East Coast time) that it had banned Cambridge Analytica from its platform. On Saturday, it became clear why. In the face of threats of litigation from Facebook, The Observer and The New York Times ran stories from a whistleblower detailing how the data was used.
This was followed by more revelations by Channel 4 News about Cambridge Analytica’s conduct, based on undercover filming.
The UK Information Commissioner has announced it is to seek a warrant to access Cambridge Analytica’s servers.
As ever, it’s Facebook handling of the dispute that has drawn the most ire. Notably the lack of public comment from senior Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. The New York Times reports that a senior executive, chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, is to leave the company over internal disagreements over how it should respond to its role in spreading disinformation.
Credit should go to The Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr for her dogged pursuit of this story for over a year. Over this time responses have ranged from “Move along. Nothing to see here.” to very personal abuse.
There are some parallels with work of Nick Davies at The Guardian in investigating phone hacking at the News Of The World. Robust denials, a woeful corporate response, and The Guardian having to give its own material to rival news outlets in order for the story to gain traction.
This story clearly has a long way to go. Whilst it perhaps premature to say this is the death-knell for the platform, it has proved that Facebook is certainly not invincible. And whatever the final outcome, it is clear that the days of Facebook, Google et al all having the commercial benefits of a mass media platform, with none of the legal and moral responsibilities that come with it, are over.