Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

When you've finally been caught with your trousers around your ankles and your principles in a twist, you might imagine that a touch of humility is in order.

That's not how it appears to be at Facebook.

Despite the company's forced, inadequate mea culpas over the past week, as it slowly admitted how much it knew about its users' data being harvested by the great and the bad, it still thinks it can control everything.

Even parliamentary hearings.

Here is telling footage from last week's Select Committee of the Singapore government hearing on Facebook's privacy practices. Or lack of them.

The country's Home Affairs and Law Minister, K. Shanmugam, asks Facebook's vice-president of public policy for Asia-Pacific, Simon Milner, a seemingly apposite question about how Facebook executives have answered previous criticisms of its ways in the UK parliament.

Milner gets up on his high horse -- or at least a horse that he thinks has infinite hands -- and demands to speak to the Chair.

Oddly enough, a few years ago, Facebook released an ad comparing itself to chairs, so perhaps that's what was on Milner's mind.

Still, he continued, in rather pompous tones: "I don't think this is a fair use of this committee's time or fair to ask me about this."

Some might think that fairness has rarely been at the heart of Facebook, as it has seemed fairly obfuscatory about, say, what really went on during the 2016 election campaign.

But no. Milner needs to lecture a foreign government.

"This committee is looking into the issue of deliberate online falsehoods here in Singapore," he continued. 

Oh, well, yes. Why doesn't Facebook set the agenda? Why didn't it provide a curated news feed, from which Singapore's ministers could pick the appropriate questions?

"I don't think it's fair to ask me detailed questions about evidence given by my colleague to a different parliament in a different country about activities associated with that country. And I really would like the Chairman to consider whether this line of questioning is appropriate," Milner huffed.

The Facebook executive continued to interrupt Shanmugam.

At this, the Chairman, Charles Chong, had had enough.

"I think you should leave it to us to decide what is relevant and what is not relevant," he said, with remarkable politeness.

Then Shanmugam, again politely, explained why his question was relevant. The gist: It's questionable, he said, whether Facebook can be trusted.

He offered a final flourish.

It's a flourish that excoriates the arrogance that Milner showed.

Sadly, as he listens, Milner shakes his head and shows no humility whatsoever.

Which is a pity.

When you're in someone else's country, showing respect is something of a basic.

Too often, Facebook has acted as if governments are mere nuisances, ones that can be easily overcome with a look of disdain and a muttering of "you just don't understand."

The time has come for Facebook to do a little understanding.

I'm not sure it's up to the task.

Published on: Mar 27, 2018
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