Categories: RegulationWorkspace

Zuckerberg Meets With UK Culture Secretary

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has met with UK culture secretary Jeremy Wright at the company’s California headquarters, following his repeated refusal to meet with British lawmakers amidst scandals over issues including data protection, harmful content and taxation.

The meeting, which took place on Thursday afternoon, was part of a tour Wright and digital minister Margot James are making of the US’ west coast this week, during which they are scheduled to meet with executives from Twitter, Apple, Google, YouTube, Snap and Tinder.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DMCS) confirmed that Wright and Zuckerberg would discuss the British government’s plans “to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online”.

Ahead of the meeting, Wright said he wanted to see what Facebook could do to “keep people safe”.

New regulatory framework

“The era of self regulation is coming to an end but I still want to see innovative solutions on online harms being put forward by the industry,” Wright said in a statement.

“I look forward to meeting Mr Zuckerberg to discuss what more Facebook can do to help keep people safe on their platforms, as we prepare a new regulatory framework that will reinforce Facebook’s and other tech firms’ responsibility to keep us safe.”

The meeting was reported earlier by the BBC, which said the Wright had been allotted 30 minutes of Zuckerberg’s time.

The government has promised action on harmful content on Facebook and subsidiaries such as Instagram, as well as on the taxation of large overseas tech firms including Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon.

A DMCS committee repeatedly demanded Zuckerberg’s attendance at hearings over a period of 18 months, but the Facebook chief declined, even while appearing before government committees in the US and the EU.

‘Digital gangsters’

The committee’s probe culminated in a damning report published earlier this week, which described Facebook and other tech firms as behaving like a “digital gangsters”.

The 108-page report found Facebook had “intentionally and knowingly” violated data protection and anti-competition laws and required more regulation.

The paper called for the creation of an independent regulator that would impose a mandatory code of conduct on tech companies, with the ability to exact “large fines” for non-compliance.

“Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law,” said the report.

It singled out Zuckerberg’s “contempt” toward the British Parliament for refusing to appear at hearings.

“Mark Zuckerberg continually fails to show the levels of leadership and personal responsibility that should be expected from someone who sits at the top of one of the world’s biggest companies,” said committee chair Damian Collins in a statement.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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