It’s too soon to tell whether these words will come back to haunt him.Image: Alex Wong/Getty ImagesBy Rachel Kraus2018-04-10 22:56:21 UTC
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook may have a ways to go before earning back the public’s trust, but advocates for immigrants may be able to rest a little easier after Zuckerberg’s (seemingly never-ending) congressional hearing.
Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) asked Zuckerberg about the extent to which Facebook would comply with President Trump’s “extreme vetting” initiative for ICE. To which Zuckerberg responded that… it wouldn’t!
Hirono referenced an ICE directive, per Trump’s “extreme vetting” executive order, for the department to use and work with social media companies, including Facebook, to identify which immigrant applicants would “positively contribute” to the U.S., and those who “intend to commit criminal or terrorist acts” after entering the United States. Essentially, to execute Trump’s executive order, ICE thinks it can use Facebook to go all Minority Report (IE, identify potential criminals… before they actually commit any crimes).
TBH, what it sounds like this actually amounts to is massive data collection and monitoring. Which Facebook is incidentally very good at.
“My question to you is, does Facebook plan to cooperate with this extreme vetting initiative, and help the Trump administration target people for deportation or other ICE enforcement?” Hirono asked Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg hemmed and hawed, saying that he hadn’t talked with ICE about the issue, so Hirono clarified:
“If you were asked to cooperate with ICE so that they could determine whether somebody was going to commit a crime, for example, or become fruitful members of our society, would you cooperate?”
“We would not proactively do that,” Zuckerberg said.
Zuckerberg went on to explain that Facebook cooperates with law enforcement in two instances: when there is an “imminent threat of harm,” or when law enforcement reaches out to them with a valid legal request.
Hirono then pointed out that there is no law that says Facebook would have to cooperate with a request from ICE to help them monitor potential immigrants, so she concluded, “it sounds to me as though you would decline.”
“Senator, that is correct,” Zuckerberg answered.
Still, a recent investigation from The Intercept found that ICE and other law enforcement agencies are already using Facebook data to “find and track” criminal suspects. In Facebook’s statement in response to the report, it echoed Mark Zuckerberg’s sentiment that Facebook complies with law enforcement when it provides legal documentation, and insisted that it rigorously investigates these requests before complying.
But The Intercept’s investigation casts doubt on that claim, reporting that the documentation ICE submits often amounts to standard forms that don’t require the oversight of a judge.
If and when ICE comes knocking for Facebook’s Minority Report-esque, data collecting skillz, at least we’ll now have Zuck on the record saying that Facebook won’t comply.
Whether that will be the case IRL remains to be seen.