Zuckerberg's meeting with EU lawmakers over privacy livestreamed


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s EU meeting on Tuesday May 22 will be livestreamed, after criticism that holding it in private was against the new spirit of transparency.

The European Parliament’s stream will broadcast on the European Parliament’s website from 18:15 to 19:30 Brussels time (Livestream here). Zuckeberg will be questioned by representatives of the main European Parliament political groups, but not all 751 MEPs will have a chance to ask questions.

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Facebook doesn’t intend Mark Zuckerberg to appear before a UK parliamentary committee (The Verge), despite repeated requests from London that the CEO present himself to answer questions on fake news, data privacy, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Damian Collins, the chairman of the British parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, had threatened to issue a formal summons so that the next time Zuckerberg was in the UK he could potentially face arrest. Collins is now suggesting that Zuckerberg could answer questions via a video link.

Facebook confirmed Zuckerberg will meet representatives of the main European Parliament political groups behind closed doors in Brussels, Belgium, and that a public hearing is planned afterwards, but he will not be present for it.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg could be formally summoned by UK Parliament, after the company’s Chief Technology Officer, Mike Schroepfer, provided “unsatisfactory” answers at an inquiry into fake news.

Collins said in a statement that Schroepfer “failed to answer many specific and detailed questions about Facebook’s business practices” and the company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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Questions included what changes Facebook planned in light of new data protection laws in Europe, whether it had used non Facebook users’ data and if the social media network had “mislead” Parliament at a previous evidence session (UK Parliament).

Also, Schroepfer revealed that nobody at Facebook had read the terms and conditions of Aleksandr Kogan’s ‘This Is Your Digital Life’ app, which may have taken up to 87 million users’ personal information, according to Facebook.

Collins said that as an American citizen living in California, Zuckerberg does not normally come under the jurisdiction of the UK parliament.

“But he will the next time he enters the country.”

If Zuckerberg does not respond to the committee’s request Collins said the committee will issue a formal summons for him to appear when he is next in the UK. (UK parliament).

UK committees can compel witnesses (other than the monarchy, government ministers, MPs and Lords members) within the UK to attend and answer questions, according to think tank The Institute for Government.

If a witness says they won’t attend or refuses to answer the committee’s questions, it can formally summon them or argue they have committed “contempt”. There is no law for this, but the committee can send a report to the House of Commons and argue the witness has committed “contempt of parliament” (The Institute for Government).

However, if for example MPs found Mark Zuckerberg had committed contempt it is unclear what could be done. Historically, those found guilty of contempt could be fined or imprisoned, but these sanctions have not been used since 1666 and 1880 respectively, according to The Institute for Government.

Zuckerberg is likely to give evidence to the European Parliament according to Politico, and Collins says the committee will ask he does the same in the UK before the May 24 (UK parliament).

Community contribution suggestions:

  • Cases of what has happened to witnesses who refused to appear before committees
  • How likely is it Zuckerberg will be found guilty of contempt of parliament? – Please link to other opinions
  • If Zuckerberg comes to the UK how quickly can the UK committee formally summon him?

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