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Facebook 'trying to influence Government by poaching officials'

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 25/08/2020 David Wilcock, Whitehall Correspondent For Mailonline

Facebook has been accused of trying to influence Government policy before it is written by hiring former Whitehall policymakers.

The social media giant has reportedly used its financial clout to poach 10 former officials who worked on online regulation in recent months.

Facebook, owned by billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, is one of several large firms facing calls to take action over issues ranging from online hate to the amount of tax they pay in countries where they operate.

It has denied wrongdoing and last year hired former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to a senior role. 

Tory Damian Collins, the former chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, told the Times: 'Facebook is clearly hiring people who have both direct personal knowledge of the latest thinking on how this could be developed, and extensive networks amongst the officials who will be advising ministers on these issues. 

'They are doing this to try and change the direction of policy before it is even launched.'

a close up of a logo: The Times reported that among those hired by Facebook were Shane Murphy, former head of policy on international data transfers at DCMS, Caroline Hurst, its former senior policy adviser on internet safety, and Annabel Brody, who was in charge of media regulation © Provided by Daily Mail The Times reported that among those hired by Facebook were Shane Murphy, former head of policy on international data transfers at DCMS, Caroline Hurst, its former senior policy adviser on internet safety, and Annabel Brody, who was in charge of media regulation

And Julian Knight, the committee's current chairman, added: 'The truth is big tech has taken over from the likes of banking, oil and pharmaceuticals in terms of their lobbying power.' 

Shadow digital, culture, media and sport secretary Jo Stevens said: 'It's no secret that Facebook and Google have been ferociously lobbying the government to water down its long overdue online harms bill.


Video: 'We must strengthen our response' - Hancock (Sky News)

'Labour has been clear from the start we need a robust and independent regulator with sufficient powers and sanctions to make the internet a safer, fairer and more inclusive place.

'The online harms bill is an opportunity for the UK to put in place ground breaking legislation that will safeguard against the continuing societal damage that unregulated global tech platforms like Facebook are facilitating.

'We must not let this opportunity to make a real difference pass us by because of the excessive influence and massive lobbying budgets of Facebook and other tech giants.'

The Times reported that among those hired by Facebook were Shane Murphy, former head of policy on international data transfers at DCMS, Caroline Hurst, its former senior policy adviser on internet safety, and Annabel Brody, who was in charge of media regulation.

Additionally other officials have joined Facebook from the Cabinet Office, the Home Office and UK Counter-terrorism Policing.  There is no suggestion that any rules were broken. 

A spokesman for campaigning organisation Transparency International said: 'When a group of civil servants from different departments go to work for the same employer relating to their previous policy brief, all within a relatively short period of time, it surely can't be a coincidence.'

Facebook told the paper: 'Our policy teams play a key role in developing and  applying Facebook's policies such as our community standards which set out what is and isn't allowed on our platforms. 

'Having people with a range of expertise helps ensure that those policies and rules are effective and up to date.

'Facebook has actively called for new regulations to set high standards across the internet and so that private companies aren't making so many of these important decisions alone.'

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