This is the second time in a month that the company founder has turned down MP’s requests, despite having appeared before a similar committee in the United States. It appears that Zuckerberg has time for US Senators but not for members of the UK Parliament.
The call from MP’s came after they announced their dissatisfaction over the committee’s meeting with CTO Mike Schroepfer three weeks ago. Last year, the committee was assembled to undertake the task of investigating fake news, however it rapidly escalated in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
A Scathing Response
Damian Collins, Chair of the committee, wrote to Facebook requesting Zuckerberg’s attendance on the grounds that Schroepfer had not adequately addressed the near forty questions at his hearing. Collins took an unprecedented step in warning that if Zuckerberg did not attend the committee would issue a formal summons for him to appear the next time he entered the UK.
In response to this, Rebecca Stimson, Facebook’s UK Head of Public Policy penned a response to each individual question asked by the committee in what comes across as a scathing letter of rejection. The letter states: “While Mark Zuckerberg has no plans to meet with the Committee or travel to the UK at the present time, we fully recognise the seriousness of these issues and remain committed to providing any additional information required for their enquiry into fake news.”
The committee has no legal authority to demand testimony from a non-UK citizen despite the fact that Zuckerberg’s company operates in the country. It does, however, signify the committee’s clear dissatisfaction at the outcome of the hearing with Schroepfer.
Back and Forth
Collins released a statement yesterday criticising Stimson’s response as the saga appears to be developing into a Hollywood-style spat. In his statement, Collins claimed Facebook’s answers still “do not fully answer each point with sufficient detail or data evidence” and said that the committee would once again be writing to Facebook to address “significant gaps” in the answers.
He added that the refusal signals a lack of interest in establishing the truth of the matter and that if possible, MP’s would be willing to accept his testimony via video link.
It would appear that this cat and mouse game between Facebook and the parliamentary committee will continue to drag on as MP’s look to calm public concerns over data misuse during critical election cycles and a nation-defining referendum.
Zuckerberg to Appear at European Union
Zuckberg is expected to make an appearance at the European Union next week. He has accepted a request by MEP’s to appear before them next week in Brussels.
His appearance, however, has drawn widespread criticism as it will not be held in public. Instead, the session will be held behind closed doors as Zuckerberg gives evidence to leaders from eight of the major political parties that make up the European Parliament.
The European President, Antonio Tajani, confirmed the appearance, stating: “The Conference of Presidents has agreed that Mark Zuckerberg should come to clarify issues related to the use of personal data.”
“The founder and CEO of Facebook has accepted our invitation and… will meet the leaders of the political groups and the chair and Rapporteur of the Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.”
The MEP who leads the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe questioned the decision to hold the session behind closed doors on Twitter, insisting that it must be a public hearing. He said: “I will not attend the meeting with Mr Zuckerberg if it’s held behind closed doors. It must be a public hearing – why not a Facebook Live?”