UK parliamentary committee to push for Zuckerberg testimony

27 Apr 2018

Facebook app. Image: seasontime/Shutterstock

UK politicians are still keen to grill Mark Zuckerberg over Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The repercussions of the Cambridge Analytica scandal are continuing to reveal themselves, weeks after the original story broke.

Politicians and lawmakers around the world have sought answers from Facebook leaders around just how the situation came to be, but UK officials still wish to speak with CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Committee wants more solid responses

The digital culture, media and sport committee in the UK set CTO Mike Schroepfer a series of challenging questions on Thursday (26 April), but many felt disappointed by what they viewed as deflective responses. It included queries around how much money Facebook makes from ads and why the company moved 1.5bn accounts from Facebook Ireland’s jurisdiction to Facebook Inc’s just a few weeks before GDPR.

Schroepfer echoed Zuckerberg’s US hearing comments, saying that the company hadn’t done enough to manage political ads in the past, and told the committee that only verified accounts would be able to place ads in the future. One MP, Julian Knight, described Facebook as a “morality-free zone” and added that the company employed bullying tactics when dealing with the journalists who originally broke and covered the story.

Committee head Damian Collins was unhappy with the hearing and said: “We believe that, given the large number of outstanding questions for Facebook to answer, Mark Zuckerberg should still appear in front of the committee.”

He stated: “Mr Schroepfer, Mark Zuckerberg’s right-hand man whom we were assured could represent his views, today failed to answer many specific and detailed questions about Facebook’s business practices. We will be asking him to respond in writing to the committee on these points; however, we are mindful that it took a global reputational crisis and three months for the company to follow up on questions we put to them in Washington DC on February 8.”

Zuckerberg to head to Brussels

Meanwhile, in Brussels, an anonymous EU parliamentary official told Politico that it is highly likely Zuckerberg would appear before MEPs in May of this year. The source said that Zuckerberg wants to come but apparently has some conditions around the format of the hearing.

If he did attend the EU hearing, it would be in the form of a joint session of parliamentary committees, as the parliament’s plenary sessions are strictly reserved for heads of state or international leaders as opposed to business figureheads.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company appreciated any opportunity to answer questions. “As Mark Zuckerberg said, he wants to make sure the most senior members of his team answer the parliament’s questions and explain the steps we have taken to protect our users’ data further.”

MEP Sean Kelly said: “I understand that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will meet MEPs at the European Parliament next month. Having called for this to happen since we heard of what went on at Cambridge Analytica, this is a welcome development.”

Facebook app. Image: seasontime/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects