If Mark Zuckerberg believed in astrologists, his pandit would definitely tell him that Facebook’s shani is very bhaari right now.
In light of the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, the #DeleteFacebook movement forcing Zuckerberg to apologise for their security failure, and the all-round criticism of Facebook’s policies, there lies a very rocky road ahead for the social network.
And as if it couldn’t get worse, their own employees aren’t helping their case.
Industrialist Anand Mahindra shared a snippet of an exchange between Simon Milner, Vice President of Public Policy for Asia-Pacific, and Singapore’s Minister of Law and Home Affair, K Shanmugam. And it’s safe to say, Milner’s not making any friends with his attitude.
This exchange took place on Thursday, when Singapore’s Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods was convened, inviting representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter to present their side of the story about their efforts to combat fake news.
Is this video for real? Did this really happen? How could Facebook deploy such a jerk to be their ‘Face?’ This chap clearly needs a crash course in Carnegie’s classic ‘How to win friends & influence people’ ! pic.twitter.com/Rwpr4bzdZj
— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) March 26, 2018
However, as you can see in the video, Minister Shanmugam decided to open his query for Milner with questions about Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica breach. And Milner opted to go on the offense a little too strongly.
Milner initially stated that discussing this unrelated topic would be digressing from the main agenda of the meeting. But when Shanmugam suggested that Milner had chosen to not answer the question, the latter turned defensive.
“That’s genuinely not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to understand why are we not talking about the issues about Singapore, about deliberate online falsehoods here, about what our companies are doing.”
And sure as hell, the Minister managed to make Milner squirm with his reply!
You can watch the entire reply here:
Almost everyone agreed that Milner’s overly defensive demeanour was not scoring him or Facebook any points.
People also pointed out a form of underlying racism in this approach, where the company seemed to undermine Singapore’s authority as opposed to, say, the United States, where it would not have pulled off such a stunt and answered the question appropriately.
Yes it's true, I saw the release from SG gov today. It was appalling arrogance, the kind that feeds biases against westerners.
— Fun Tweeter (@mantoshb) March 26, 2018
2. Yeah, not something they can afford to be right now!
— Shantanu Sahajpal (@MadLoudspeaker) March 26, 2018
3. First World v/s Third World. Guess who wins?
Do I see a Subtle racism also in play here? Its like 'it may b OK for first-world countries US/UK to grill us, but small countries lk Singapore and third-world countries, shouldn't dare to cross their 'limits' (set by d white man?)
— MASH (@man_bhr) March 26, 2018
4. Sudhar ja, FB! Sudhar ja!
— Kabeer Sharma (@ka_beer) March 26, 2018
5. Many praised Shanmugam for his fierce pursuit of the truth and the way he schooled Milner.
This is a lesson for our State and Union ministers, only a handful, if any, can match this level.
Lesson for voters, choose your lawmakers wisely https://t.co/aDj6nMCBsE
— AV (@anandvnarayanan) March 26, 2018
6. Hit it out of the park!
It shows the man was merely following practises of any such mammoth organisation who thrive by meandering through a country’s legal structure even though they may be completely violating in spirit and Mr Shanmugam hits him out of the ballpark https://t.co/WLBhRX97mX
— Vineet (@travelingzulu) March 26, 2018
7. A nice jibe at the ball-tampering incident ft. Aussie cricketer Bancroft!
Pardon him sir, looks like he is just a BANCROFT of F'book, just following the instructions received from the dressing room during 15 minutes break.. the buck stops somewhere else. https://t.co/4JGhyOCutU
— Capt Anil Dhankher (@Captain_Anil) March 26, 2018
It must be noted though, that not everyone believed Milner to be wrong in this scenario.
Milner’s “Let’s come straight to business” approach rallied its own supporters. People claimed that he was merely trying to avoid wasting time by meandering off topic.
1. Quite reasonable.
milner sounded reasonable to me. lost count of how many times we stray away from agenda in regular meetings.
— neelima varma (@neelimavarmabb) March 26, 2018
2. Not your business, Singapore.
But wasn't he factually correct? What has Singapore has to do with what FB has answered in another country another jurisdiction.
— ashwath (@ash7k) March 26, 2018
On one hand, Shanmugam’s argument that it was all a matter of establishing trust as a company seems quite a valid basis for his line of questioning. On the other hand, Milner, who came prepared for one thing and was asked to shine light on something else, had a reasonable point to make too—why waste time discussing something that’s not on the agenda?
I’ll leave it to you to decide where the scales ought to tip more. However, Facebook really needs to train its reps for such ambushes because the way things are going now, there are going to be many more guerrilla attacks coming.