Zuckerberg Says Yes To EU Parliament Appearance, But No To UK

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The Facebook chief executive says he will appear before the European Parliament, but won’t come to the UK

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will cross the Atlantic and come to Europe to answer questions over the Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal.

But he will not appear before the British parliamentary committee investigating the matter, but rather has agreed to appear before the European parliament at a closed-door meeting.

This meeting, according to the European parliament president, Antonio Tajani, could happen as soon as next week.

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Parliament meeting

“The founder and CEO of Facebook has accepted our invitation and will be in Brussels as soon as as possible, hopefully already next week,” tweeted Tajani.

“Our citizens deserve a full and detailed explanation,” he added. “I welcome Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to appear in person before the representatives of 500 million Europeans.”

The move is sure to anger British MPs, who have asked Zuckerberg to appear before their committee investigating fake news three times now.

Zuckerberg instead decided to dispatch his chief technical officer, Mike Schroepfer, to appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee last month.

Earlier this week the Committee lamented Schroepfer’s testimony, saying that the US social network has continued to leave “significant gaps” in answers it has provided to British MPs.

Committee chair Damian Collins MP said it was “disappointing” that Facebook had not answered questions with a “sufficient level of detail and transparency”.

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

And now Zuckerberg is to appear before the European Parliament, and has reportedly even agreed to meet with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, next Wednesday.

But the decision to hold the meeting with the European Parliament behind closed doors has angered others. Guy Verhofstadt, the liberal leader, announced he would boycott the meeting unless it was public, asking why it could not be streamed on Facebook Live.

He accused the centre-right bloc, the largest in the parliament, and the extreme right of colluding to keep the meeting private.

“I will not attend the meeting with Mr Zuckerberg if it’s held behind closed doors,” Verhofstadt tweeted. “It must be a public hearing – why not a Facebook Live? I strongly regret that the @EPPGroup has colluded with extreme right to keep everything behind closed doors.”

A spokesperson for Facebook told the Guardian newspaper that the company had accepted the “proposal to meet with leaders of the European parliament and appreciate[s] the opportunity for dialogue, to listen to their views and show the steps we are taking to better protect people’s privacy”.

GDPR arrival

Zuckerberg’s trip across the pond to visit Europe comes ahead of the implementation of the EU’s data protection regulation.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force on 25 May, and will allow any individual in Europe to ask a company for data held about them.

Facebook has agreed to apply the EU’s data protection measures to European citizens, but will apparently exclude 1.5 billion users residing in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America.

There has been mixed messages coming out of Facebook of late regarding GDPR, after Zuckerberg appeared to suggest he would apply aspects of the GDPR worldwide, despite earlier appearing to suggest that he would not apply it.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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