Facebook has declined once again to send its CEO to the UK parliament — this time turning down an invitation to face questions from a grand committee comprised of representatives from five international parliaments.
MPs from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Ireland and the UK have joined forces to try to pile pressure on the company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, to answer questions related to his “platform’s malign use in world affairs and democratic process”.
The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, which has been running an enquiry into online disinformation for the best part of this year, revealed the latest Facebook snub yesterday. It put out the grand committee call for facetime with Zuckerberg last week.
In the latest rejection letter to DCMS, Facebook writes: “Thank you for the invitation to appear before your Grand Committee. As we explained in our letter of November 2nd, Mr Zuckerberg is not able to be in London on November 27th for your hearing and sends his apologies.”
“We remain happy to cooperate with your inquiry as you look at issues related to false news and elections,” the company’s UK head of public policy, Rebecca Stimson, adds, before going on to summarize “some of the things we have been doing at Facebook over the last year”.
This boils down to a list of Facebook activities and related research that intersects with the topics of election interference, political ads, disinformation and security, but without offering any new information of substance or data points that could be used to measure and quantify the company’s actions.
The letter does not explain why Zuckerberg is unavailable to speak to the committee remotely, e.g. via video call.
Responding to the latest snub, DCMS chair Damian Collins expressed disappointment and vowed to keep up the pressure.
“Facebook’s letter is, once again, hugely disappointing,” he writes. “We believe Mark Zuckerberg has important questions to answer about what he knew about breaches of data protection law involving their customers’ personal data and why the company didn’t do more to identify and act against known sources of disinformation; and in particular those coming from agencies in Russia.
“The fact that he has continually declined to give evidence, not just to my committee, but now to an unprecedented international grand committee, makes him look like he’s got something to hide.”
“We will not let the matter rest there, and are not reassured in any way by the corporate puff piece that passes off as Facebook’s letter back to us,” Collins adds. “The fact that the University of Michigan believes that Facebook’s ‘Iffy Quotient’ scores have recently improved means nothing to the victims of Facebook data breaches.
“We will continue with our planning for the international grand committee on 27th November, and expect to announce shortly the names of additional representatives who will be joining us and our plans for the hearing.”