Facebook warned not to ‘play games’ with UK government
Tue 19 Jun 2018
A senior MP has hammered a Facebook exec for ‘playing games’ with the House of Commons, warning that it may use summonses to force Mark Zuckerberg and other senior Facebook figures to testify.
Helen Jones, a Labour MP and chairman of the Commons Petitions Committee, told Facebook’s UK public policy manager Karim Palant that the company had behaved in a “totally unacceptable” fashion as it tried to dodge appearance dates.
Following Facebook’s now infamous (and ongoing) Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mark Zuckerberg had to testify before U.S. Congress and the European Parliament.
However, many have argued that he was given an easy ride in both, with many U.S. politicians asking basic questions and demonstrating a lack of understanding of the technology behind Facebook. Meanwhile, in Brussels, the format of Zuckerberg’s questioning was criticised, with all questions being asked beforehand the Facebook CEO being able to provide effectively pre-prepared answers.
Facebook in the UK
And the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the UK was unable to force Zuckerberg to appear at all. Damian Collins MP, the chair of the Committee, said at the time that if Zuckerberg did not agree to an appearance, he would issue a summons to force his attendance.
Jones today reiterated that point and illustrated her anger at Facebook’s behaviour. The company initially tried to dictate the dates on which execs would appear before her Committee, and then changed those dates due to apparent ‘annual leave.’
Jones said: “Young men in your company may play games. You do not play games with the House of Commons.”
She continued: “I want to make it very clear that your company will not be able to avoid democratic scrutiny, that it is not acceptable to try to disrupt a committee inquiry and that you do not dictate the terms of engagement – elected members do.
“You have given the impression that your company doesn’t feel that it has to be scrutinised and, frankly, that it has something to hide.”
House of Commons Select Committees have had a tough time recently, with Leave.EU co-founder Arron Banks leaving a meeting for lunch, in spite of requests not to by Damian Collins.