Zuckerberg has ‘no plans’ to appear before UK gov despite threat of formal summons

Mark Zuckerberg has ‘no plans’ to appear before UK parliament to give evidence about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, despite MP’s threat of formal summons.

Facebook’s Head of Public Policy in the UK Rebecca Stimson, wrote a letter to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, saying “Zuckerberg has no plans to meet with the committee or travel to the UK at the present time.”

The committee had issued a letter containing 39 questions to Facebook, which were answered by the company’s Chief technology Officer Mike Schroepfer in lieu of Zuckerberg. MP’s are arguing that Schroepfer’s answers did not provide sufficient detail or data evidence.

Damian Collins, the Conservative chair of the digital culture media and sport select committee, said there are ‘discrepancies’ between Schroepfer and Zuckerberg’s testimonies. “It is disappointing that a company with the resources of Facebook chooses not to provide a sufficient level of detail and transparency on various points including on Cambridge Analytica, dark ads, Facebook Connect, the amount spent by Russia on UK ads on the platform, data collection across the web, budgets for investigations,” he added. 

The Facebook founder isn’t obliged to come to the UK as the committee has no real power to force a person to give evidence if they are based abroad. In theory, the Commons can decide on a sanction for people who breach a summons, but powers to jail and fine are no longer practiced.

MPs are still threatening a formal summons, in the hope he will give in and appear. They have also asked if Zuckerberg will appear via video link instead.

Facebook said that it recognised “the seriousness of these issues”and provided written answers to 39 questions posed by the MPs.

Collins said: “If Mark Zuckerberg truly recognises the ‘seriousness’ of these issues as they say they do, we would have expected that he would want to appear.

“Although Facebook says Mr Zuckerberg has no plans to travel to the UK, we would also be open to taking his evidence by video link, if that would be the only way to do this,” he added. 

While it’s unclear whether Zuckerberg will appear before the UK government, either via video or in real life, MPs are studying Facebook’s answers to their questions.

The committee also has plans to send another letter to Facebook in regards to the incomplete answers.

Collins said: “Given that these were follow up questions to questions Schroepfer previously failed to answer, we expected both detail and data, and in a number of cases got excuses.”

A formal summons has worked before, when it persuaded Rupert Murdoch and his son James to appear in front of the same committee in 2011, to answer questions about phone hacking at the News of the World.