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Facebook was aware of Russian meddling as far back as 2014

Company emails show the company knew engineers were aware a Russian IP address was pulling "three billion data points a day" on its network.

by David Gilbert
Nov 27 2018, 7:29pm

Facebook knew as far back as 2013 that operatives based in Russia were accessing “three billion data points a day” on its network, according to secret emails obtained by the U.K. parliament.

British lawmaker Damian Collins made the revelation during an unprecedented “grand disinformation commission” that took place Tuesday in London and saw lawmakers from nine different countries come together to grill the social network on everything from its privacy policy to its inflated video views.

Collins said internal Facebook emails showed that an engineer flagged in October 2014 that an entity with a Russian IP address had been using a Pinterest API key to access 3 billion data points a day using Facebook’s ordered friends API.

Collins asked whether Facebook had reported the alleged breach to the authorities:

“If Russian IP addresses were pulling down a huge amount of data from the platform was that reported or was that just kept, as so often seems to be the case, within the family and not talked about?”

Collins was referring to documents seized from Ted Kramer, the CEO of Six4Three, a U.S. app developer that's suing Facebook in a California court. The social network has spent months attempting to keep the documents sealed.

Read: Facebook is so afraid of this man that it smeared him as both backed by George Soros and anti-Semitic

Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president of public policy, didn’t directly answer Collins’ question and instead attacked the source of the documents as a “hostile litigant.”

Allan added that Collins only had access to a select portion of the relevant documents.

”The engineers who had flagged these initial concerns subsequently looked into this further and found no evidence of specific Russian activity,” Facebook said in an emailed statement to VICE News.

A spokesperson said they were unable to comment further as the documents have been sealed by a California court, adding that the committee has possession of “a set of documents that have been selectively leaked by a party that is trying to sue us.”

Read: Whatsapp is managing its fake news problem in Brazil from an office in Silicon Valley

Allan was grilled for three hours by lawmakers from the U.K., Canada, Brazil, Latvia, Argentina, Ireland, Singapore, France, and Belgium in an unprecedented hearing to discuss Facebook’s numerous failings around the world.

Next to Allan was an empty chair where the committee had hoped CEO Mark Zuckerberg would sit, but the Facebook founder has repeatedly declined requests to come before the committee.

Canadian lawmaker Charlie Angus said he was “deeply disappointed” at Zuckerberg’s decision to “blow off this meeting” and asked Allan: “Who gave Mr. Zuckerberg the advice to ignore this committee?”

“Mr. Zuckerberg’s decision to not appear here speaks volumes,” Angus added. “When he says that the plan was to move fast and break things and that breaking may have involved our democratic institutions, does he not think or not believe that parliamentarians will push back?”

British lawmaker Clive Efford pressed the point further: “How do you think it looks that Mark Zuckerberg didn't turn up to answer questions to parliament today?”

Allan, who is a member of the House of Lords, replied: “Not great.”

Read: A teenage girl in south Sudan was auctioned off on Facebook

The committee did not publish the cache of secret documents it obtained last week, but Collins said he will publish them in the next week after he has read through them to redact sensitive information.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Collins called on Facebook to unseal the documents themselves before he publishes them.

Cover: On Tuesday November 27, an actor dressed as Mark Zuckerberg arrives at Portcullis House, London, where a hearing is taking place on the impact of disinformation on democracy. (Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire)

This article originally appeared on VICE News US.

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