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Facebook users’ lawsuit forces Mark Zuckerberg to give 6-hour deposition
#1        Facebook users’ lawsuit forces Mark Zuckerberg to give 6-hour deposition
Facebook wants the scandal to be over by next spring, but discovery drags on.
ASHLEY BELANGER - 7/21/2022, 1:57 PM      In 2018, when Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified for a Senate hearing following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, his most frequent response to questions was some iteration of the evasive phrase “my team will get back to you.”

Four years later, plaintiffs in a subsequent California class action lawsuit claim that Meta’s team of designees on various topics have been just as unprepared to answer questions as Zuckerberg was before the Senate. Because of that, the plaintiffs are putting Zuckerberg back on the stand, hoping that six hours of deposing the billionaire and depositions from other high-level Meta executives will end a “long overdue discovery” process that the plaintiffs say has already dragged on too long.

“Much discovery work remains to be done,” the plaintiffs wrote this week in a joint case statement that includes a request for “approximately 35 more depositions.” In addition to Zuckerberg, former Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg will be deposed for possibly longer than five hours, and current Meta Chief Growth Officer Javier Olivan will be deposed for as long as three hours. All depositions have been scheduled through September 20, which the statement says will result in Meta missing a September 16 court deadline for discovery, dragging proceedings on further.

“Facebook complains about this follow-up process but it was necessitated by Facebook’s designees’ inability to testify meaningfully about myriad matters for which they were designated to testify,” the plaintiffs say.

The plaintiffs are also seeking “substantial additional documents and information from Facebook and third parties,” most significantly some “long-awaited” data on a named plaintiff in the case and specified Facebook financial documents. They say that Meta is still evading questions and that many documents produced were “junk files.” That has made the plaintiffs “concerned” that even if Meta produces the documents they seek, the extended delay has already significantly limited their review time before they have to produce an initial expert report, which is due on October 21.

The Guardian notes that “this suit is the first to include extensive depositions from high-level Facebook executives," and it “could reveal new details in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.” Filed on behalf of Facebook users, the lawsuit seeks $5 million in damages, which is a  small amount compared to the $5 billion fine Facebook already paid to the Federal Trade Commission.

After Facebook paid that fine, Facebook shareholders alleged in a lawsuit that the company only agreed to such a high fine to protect Zuckerberg from personally receiving any more official scrutiny on this issue. If that was the strategy, then Zuckerberg’s upcoming deposition proves the tactic isn’t always completely successful. And although the class action lawsuit damages would amount to much less money out of pocket for a company that claims it will be worth $3 trillion by 2031, there remains the potential for a settlement to lead to more legal accountability. For Facebook users, it could mean more than the FTC fine because it could meaningfully change Facebook data privacy policies.

Whether anything more will be revealed about the scandal through new depositions in the coming months will depend on whether Zuckerberg and other execs give more direct answers than Zuckerberg did during his prior testimony to the Senate.

The mood feels adversarial in the class action lawsuit, though, with both sides alleging that the other is lying about the sincerity of Meta’s efforts to comply with court orders to supply documents. It’s Meta’s stated position that the company has promptly cooperated with plaintiffs, despite the “constant and continuing overreach” of new information requests.

In the statement, Facebook proposed that the whole lawsuit be resolved by March 2023, a timeline which would put pressure on plaintiffs who claim in this week’s statement that Meta agreeing to these high-level depositions is really just the beginning of discovery. Facebook said that the depositions signify the opposite. “After nearly two and a half years, fact discovery is finally coming to an end,” the company said.

A Meta spokesperson told Ars that the company has no comment or statement to make at this time.

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