Seven countries have put together their top policymakers to form an international ‘grand committee.’ to investigate what they see as Facebook’s role in spreading ‘fake news.’ The committee features representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Latvia and Singapore. The countries remain frustrated about Facebook’s handling of misinformation online.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and head of Facebook said he is “unable to testify” at what is being called an unprecedented ‘grand committee’. Instead, Facebook’s vice president of policy solutions is set to attend to answer questions at the hearing in the Houses of Parliament.
Governments around the world have been growing increasingly frustrated with the social media company’s business practices. Not testifying at the global gathering may not be the best decision for Mark Zuckerberg. It is uncommon for seven countries to band together and seek to question a chief executive, reflecting the heightened threat of regulation and other punishments now facing Facebook and its peers in Silicon Valley.
In Europe, policymakers have taken aim at the way social media companies handle users’ personal data and combat hate speech and terrorism online.
Last May, Mr. Zuckerberg was grilled by the EU at a short, controversial hearing.
In Brazil, meanwhile, Facebook had to battle misinformation on its site during its most recent election, while WhatsApp emerged as a major flashpoint for candidates who felt it had been deployed deliberately to spread falsehoods.
In other countries, Facebook has big business opportunities at stake: Singapore is preparing to host Facebook’s first-ever data centre in Asia, which the tech giant has said will cost $1bn (£780m).
In a joint statement, policymakers who make up the grand committee said: “The Committee still believes that Mark Zuckerberg is the appropriate person to answer important questions about data privacy, safety, security and sharing.”
They pointed to recent reports about Facebook’s efforts to discredit its political opponents and slowness to identify Russia as a major threat.
Mr. Zuckerberg has repeatedly declined to appear at a hearing in front of parliament.
However, Mr. Zuckerberg has repeatedly declined to appear at a hearing in front of parliament, including a request at the end of October to testify at a joint hearing with the UK and Canada.
It was earlier this month number of countries calling for Zuckerberg to appear before an “international grand committee” of policymakers expanded to include Australia, Argentina and Ireland.
Facebook leaders again said it was “not possible” for Mr. Zuckerberg to “be available to all parliaments”, according to a letter sent at the time.
By Monday, Brazil, Singapore and Latvia added their voices to the campaign to persuade Mr. Zuckerberg to testify, even if by video from afar.
Mr. Zuckerberg declined for a third time in a letter sent by a subordinate, instead offering Mr. Allan.
“As we have stated previously,” wrote Rebecca Stimson, Facebook’s head of public policy in the UK, “Mr. Zuckerberg is unable to accept your invitation.”