International Grand Committee on Disinformation


London, United Kingdom

November 27, 2018

The United Kingdom, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Latvia and Singapore

During the meeting’s first hearing, parliamentarians grilled Facebook Vice President of Policy Solutions Richard Allan about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, how personal data is shared via Facebook’s apps, Russian activity on the social network, and more. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had been invited to appear before the committee but had declined, leading MPs — who didn’t try to mask their frustration — to put out an empty chair to highlight his absence.

In the afternoon, the committee spoke with the United Kingdom’s information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, and her deputy, Steve Wood. Questions and testimony were centred around what tools might be useful for law makers to be able to constrain “data mercenaries” such as AggregateIQ, how to ensure regulators have “teeth,” what kind of framework should be created to guard against disinformation, and more.

There was also a surprise appearance by Ashkan Soltani, the former chief technologist of the US Federal Trade Commission. Soltani decided last-minute to speak to the committee after taking issue with Allan’s testimony around the access to data granted to third-party developers via Facebook apps.

Session 1

transcript | video

Richard Allan

Session 2

transcript | video

Elizabeth Denham

Steve Wood

Ashkan Soltani


On November 27, 2018, the nine countries represented at the meeting signed a Declaration noting that “it is an urgent and critical priority for legislatures and governments to ensure that the fundamental rights and safeguards of their citizens are not violated or undermined by the unchecked march of technology.” 

On February 18, 2019, the United Kingdom’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee released a final report on its inquiry into disinformation and “fake news,” the result of information received over 23 oral evidence sessions and more than 170 written submissions over 18 months. The report lists 51 conclusions and recommendations for seven areas: regulation and the role, definition and legal liability of tech companies; data use and data targeting; the relationship between Canadian tech firm AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica; advertising and political campaigning; foreign influence in political campaigns; the influence of SCL Group (Cambridge Analytica’s parent company) in foreign elections; and digital literacy.

The representatives declared and endorsed five principles, stating:

  1. The internet is global and law relating to it must derive from globally agreed principles;
  2. The deliberate spreading of disinformation and division is a credible threat to the continuation and growth of democracy and a civilising global dialogue;
  3. Global technology firms must recognise their great power and demonstrate their readiness to accept their great responsibility as holders of influence;
  4. Social Media companies should be held liable if they fail to comply with a judicial, statutory or regulatory order to remove harmful and misleading content from their platforms, and should be regulated to ensure they comply with this requirement;
  5. Technology companies must demonstrate their accountability to users by making themselves fully answerable to national legislatures and other organs of representative democracy.

Media Coverage

  • The New York Times: A Hot Seat for Facebook, an Empty Chair for Zuckerberg and a Vow to Share Secret Files
  • The Guardian: Mark Zuckerberg faces more calls to attend misinformation hearing
  • The Independent: Mark Zuckerberg refuses to give evidence to International Committee investigating fake news
  • Time: Mark Zuckerberg Slammed After Failing to Show for Grilling by Global Lawmakers
  • Press Gazette: Mark Zuckerberg empty chaired at first grand committee on ‘fake news’ as parliamentarians sign declaration on web governance
  • The Guardian: Facebook fake news inquiry: the countries demanding answers
  • The Verge: Zuckerberg rejects invite from international committee to give evidence on fake news
  • The Telegraph: Mark Zuckerberg criticised for ducking international grilling on fake news
  • The Telegraph: MPs to grill Facebook over data scandals as Damian Collins threatens to expose firm’s private emails