Mark Zuckerberg has refused to attend an ‘international grand committee’ investigating fake news at Facebook and its impact on elections.
Rebecca Stimson, Facebook’s head of public policy for the UK, turned down an invite from the governments of Ireland, Argentina, Australia, Britain and Canada to attend a hearing scheduled for November 27.
In a letter to the committee, she wrote: ‘Mr. Zuckerberg is not able to be in London for your hearing and sends his apologies.
Facebook had previously turned down an invitation from Damian Collins, a British MP, and Canadian minister Bob Zimmer to attend the summit.
It was hoped that additional pressure from Argentina, Ireland and Australia might force Zuckerberg, who is one of the world’s richest and most powerful men, to reconsider his position.
Facebook insists it is willing to cooperate with the investigation, but that its founder cannot make time to appear.
Zimmer said that Canada will consider subpoenaing Zuckerberg to appear before minister, and could hold him in contempt if he fails to do so.
‘Being held in contempt of Parliament really does not look good on a résumé,’ he said, though admitted he does not have powers to force Zuckerberg to attend.
A previous letter pointed out that he has already testified before US Congress and at the European Parliament.
‘It is not possible for Mr. Zuckerberg to be available to all Parliaments,’ it said.
Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said at the time that Zuckerberg’s response ‘is not good enough’.
‘By dismissing our request, Facebook is failing to acknowledge its line of accountability not only to legislators, but to its users worldwide.
‘There remain serious questions to be answered about what measures Facebook is taking now to halt the spread of disinformation on its platform and protection for user data.’
Facebook has grappled with a string of scandals in recent years as evidence has emerged of political actors using the network to influence voters around the world.
The social media giant was fined £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office in July, the maximum fine possible, for failing to protect millions of users’ personal information which ended up in the hands of controversial election consultants Cambridge Analytica.
A week later the Electoral Commission fined Brexit campaign groups Vote Leave and BeLeave, and referred them to police for breaches in campaign spending centered around political advertising on Facebook.
This year, the company also released details of ‘inauthentic co-ordinated activity’ on the platform originating from Russia and Iran which targeted British and American politics.