Facebook VP Tries To Act ‘Smart’ With Singapore Law Minister, Gets Schooled

If Mark Zuckerberg believed in astrologists, his pandit would definitely tell him that Facebook’s shani is very bhaari right now.

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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.

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.

1. Appalling!

2.  Yeah, not something they can afford to be right now!

3. First World v/s Third World. Guess who wins?

4. Sudhar ja, FB! Sudhar ja!

5. Many praised Shanmugam for his fierce pursuit of the truth and the way he schooled Milner.

6. Hit it out of the park!

7. A nice jibe at the ball-tampering incident ft. Aussie cricketer Bancroft!

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.

2. Not your business, Singapore.

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.