DCMS committee continues to pursue Facebook CEO as chair says ‘we expected detail – we got excuses’
Credit: Andrej Sokolow/DPA/PA Images
Mark Zuckerberg has, once again, defied a request to appear before a parliamentary select committee.
Earlier this month, the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee wrote to Facebook for the second time requesting that the company’s chief executive give evidence before MPs. Zuckerberg was warned that, if he did not voluntarily attend a committee hearing, he was liable to face a formal summons to do so the next time he is in the UK. The missive also contained details of 39 questions the committee believed had not been satisfactorily answered by the appearance in April of Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer.
The social network’s UK head of public policy Rebecca Stimson has now responded to the committee and provided written answers to the 39 questions. But she added that her company’s boss (pictured above) will not be appearing before the committee in the foreseeable future.
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Stimson said: “While Mr Zuckerberg has no plans to meet with the committee or travel to the UK at the present time, we continue to fully recognise the seriousness of these issues, and remain committed to working with you to provide any additional relevant information you require for your inquiry into fake news. We will also continue to cooperate fully with the relevant regulators.”
DCMS Committee chair Damian Collins expressed his dissatisfaction at Facebook’s response. But he added that, if Zuckerberg will not be in the UK at any time during the course of the inquiry, then the committee “would also be open to taking his evidence by video link”.
Collins said: “It is disappointing that a company with the resources of Facebook chooses not to provide a sufficient level of detail and transparency on various points, including on Cambridge Analytica, dark ads, Facebook Connect, the amount spent by Russia on UK ads on the platform, data collection across the web, budgets for investigations, and [its response] shows general discrepancies between Schroepfer and Zuckerberg’s respective testimonies. Given that these were follow-up questions to questions Mr Schroepfer previously failed to answer, we expected both detail and data and, in a number of cases, got excuses.”
He added: “If Mark Zuckerberg truly recognises the ‘seriousness’ of these issues as they say they do, we would expect that he would want to appear in front of the Committee and answer questions that are of concern not only to paliament, but Facebook’s tens of millions of users in this country. For too long, these companies have gone unchallenged in their business practices, and only under public pressure from this committee and others have they begun to fully cooperate with our requests. We plan to write to Facebook in the coming days with further follow-up questions.”