Zuckerberg warned to appear before MPs or face formal summons

Written by Sam Trendall on 2 May 2018 in News
News

Select committee claims that, despite appearance of company’s CTO, 39 questions remain unanswered

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has warned Mark Zuckerberg that, if he does not voluntarily appear before MPs, he will be compelled to do so next time he is in the UK.

Chair Damian Collins has written to Rebecca Stimson, head of public policy at Facebook UK, to advise that the recent appearance before the committee of Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer has left a large amount of unanswered questions. 

A total of 39, to be precise, all of which are included in Collins’ letter

Among them are “how many UK Facebook and Instagram users were contacted by non-UK entities during the EU referendum?”, “was there any link between the US election and the 2017 purge of fake accounts?”, “what percentage of fake accounts… had any involvement from Russia?”, and “what is the legal situation regarding Facebook storing non-Facebook users’ data?”.

Also among the questions the committee still requires an answer to is “when did Mark Zuckerberg know about Cambridge Analytica?”.

The man himself ought to answer this question, Collins said, and should do so in person by 24 May.


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The letter suggested that the Facebook founder could visit London to address the select committee shortly before or after he appears before the European Parliament in Brussels, which as-yet-unconfirmed reports have suggested he will do at some point this month.

If Zuckerberg does not voluntarily arrange a trip to London to give evidence before the committee, he will be formally summoned to do so when he next lands on UK soil.

“It is worth noting that, while Mr Zuckerberg does not normally come under the jurisdiction of the UK parliament, he will do so next time he enters the country,” Collins said. “We hope that he will respond positively to our request but, if not, the committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for him to appear when he is next in the UK.

“Mr Schroepfer failed to answer fully on nearly 40 separate points. This is especially disappointing to the committee, considering that, in his testimony to [the US] Congress, Mark Zuckerberg also failed to give convincing answers to some questions.”

Collins added: “There are over 40 million Facebook users in the UK, and they deserve to hear accurate answers from the company he created, and [know] whether it is able to keep their… data safe.”

The letter advises Facebook to respond by 11 May to both answers the 39 questions, and confirm the appearance before the committee of Mark Zuckerberg.

The Facebook head was first contacted by the committee about six weeks ago.

It is rare that a select committee needs to resort to a formal summons, and rarer still that such an order is defied. Father-and-son media moguls Rupert and James Murdoch, Vote Leave campaign chief Matthew Elliott, and Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley are among the notable names in recent years to have ignored requests to give evidence to a select committee until a formal summons was issued. All three ultimately appeared on the date they were summoned – despite Ashley publicly claiming beforehand that he would not attend.

Defiance of a formal summons can result in being found in contempt of parliament. 

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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