Monika Bickert was in the witness stand ready to give evidence to Congress. As one of Facebook’s most senior executives, she was about to be grilled by the House Judiciary Committee on fake news and content filtering.
Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, began delivering her opening remarks when at least four protestors held aloft signs featuring an image of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg as a two-headed octopus. Moments later, the protestors walked out.
The bizarre moment piqued interest, with journalists following the congressional hearing, including BuzzFeed’s Ryan Mac , writing about the incident. As it turned out, it was the latest stunt to be organised Freedom from Facebook, a campaign group that wants to break up the social network.
Freedom from Facebook is a coalition of privacy and anti-monopoly advocacy groups, essentially born out of the Open Markets Institute in May. It counts at least nine other groups among its coalition and last week added its most powerful ally yet: The Communications Workers of America union, which represents 700,000 US workers.
Sarah Miller, the deputy director of the Open Markets Institute and spokeswoman for Freedom from Facebook, said the group was created in the heat of Cambridge Analytica scandal, which started “animating groups that we’d never seen have any sort of shared mission.”
Freedom from Facebook has three key objectives: Separating Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger; forcing Facebook to be interoperable with competing social networks; and introducing strong privacy rules to protect Facebook users.
“Mark Zuckerberg has far too much power, his own shareholders called him a dictator,” Miller said. “The set of positions that we’re offering are returning to a more responsible, reasonable status quo.”