MPs make fresh attempt to haul Zuckerberg before 'fake news' inquiry

MPs have made renewed efforts to summon Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence before an ongoing House of Commons inquiry into fake news and disinformation.

After snubbing the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee on several occasions, the Facebook CEO is now the target of a fresh attempt by both Canadian and British MPs, with a joint-hearing scheduled for 27 November.

Chair of the UK DCMS select committee Damian Collins MP has grown increasingly exasperated in his attempts to pin down Zuckerberg for questioning, and has urged him to appear before MPs as "evidence is now overdue and urgent".

"Over the past year, our committees have both sought evidence from a Facebook executive with sufficient authority to give an accurate account of recent failures of process, including the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal and subsequent data breaches," Collins wrote in a joint letter with his Canadian counterpart Bob Zimmer MP.

"We understand that it is not possible to make yourself available to all parliaments. However, we believe that your users in other countries need a line of accountability to your organisation - directly, via yourself.

"We would have thought that this responsibility is something that you would want to take up."

Collins and Zimmer added both committees are planning to release finalised reports by the end of December, and have requested that Zuckerberg appears before the 'international grand committee' to inform both inquiries.

"No such joint hearing has ever been held. Given your self-declared objective to "fix" Facebook, and to prevent the platform's malign use in world affairs and democratic process, we would like to give you the chance to appear at this hearing."

Zuckerberg had previously appeared before the US Congress and before MEPs in a hearing at the European Parliament, but has so far refused to be interviewed by politicians in Canada or the UK.

The DCMS select committee released its interim findings in July, including a set of policy proposals aimed at curbing the negative influence of social media platforms on democracy and disinformation.

Among its recommendations were that tech giants such as Facebook and Twitter should be made liable for fake news that spreads on their services and that the government should establish a voluntary 'Digital Atlantic Charter' to bolster citizens' data rights.

In a separate but related investigation, Facebook was fined 500,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) this year for violations of the Data Protection Act 1998. The UK data regulator found that Facebook processed its users' data unfairly by granting developers access without appropriate consent.

The DCMS select committee and its Canadian counterpart have given Mark Zuckerberg until 7 November to respond to the invitation.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.