Eye of the storm for Facebook

Normally companies have the chance of dealing with one or two major crises at the same time. But this wasn’t a luxury afforded to Facebook’s VP of Policy Solutions, Lord Allen, when he appeared in front of a committee of lawmakers from nine countries this morning at the UK Parliament in London.

Mark Zuckerberg was repeatedly invited, but didn’t show up. Regardless, the committee set up a spare chair and his name card (top photo, credit: Parliamentlive.tv).

Given the committee wanted to grill the organ-grinder and not the monkey, Lord Allen didn’t do a bad job. But he was fighting with one arm tied behind his back as he faced questions and accusations on Facebook’s corporate governance and corporate responsibility, and how it handles GDPR, trust, data protection, hacking, privacy, election meddling and fake news.

With a very few exceptions, the three-hour session offered very little support for Facebook, nor the type or extent of its efforts to solve the issues or mitigate the risks.

The final blow came when Charlie Angus, a Canadian MP concluded the session by saying: ‘Facebook is the problem’ and suggesting the company should face anti-trust legislation as ‘the only way to get a credible democratic response from a corporation’.

Facebook has been slow off the blocks on most, if not all of these issues.

First they denied there were problems, then insisted the problems weren’t their problem, given they’re ‘only a platform’; before being hit by the freight train that is this multi-country parliamentary committee.

A case of too little, too late by Facebook bosses, and a classic example of how ‘an issue ignored is a crisis ensured.’

At crisismanagement.ch, we often spend time with senior executives identifying scenarios, horizon-scanning and working to fix the root causes of the problem, rather than waiting for the solid matter to hit the aircon. We believe it’s time well-spent and an investment that offers a significant return for the business.



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