NDP Member of Parliament Charlie Angus says if Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t show up to testify in the U.K. next week, then it “sends a wrong message,” and expects the CEO to deliver testimony at the meeting.
Angus said laughing during a November 20th, 2018 phone interview with MobileSyrup that the parliamentarians will have to “cross or burn that bridge when we get to it” if Zuckerberg decides not to appear at a meeting scheduled for November 27th, 2018.
Angus, who is one of two vice-chairs of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI), said that he will be travelling with committee chair Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, as well as other vice-chair Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, later this week to take part in the first-ever joint country committee meeting.
The ETHI committee will also be holding an in-camera meeting (closed to the public and media) on November 21st, 2018, during which Angus said the committee plans to finalize the report on its study on Cambridge Analytica. Angus was not able to say what some of the committee’s recommendations will be.
The committee has met 22 times non-consecutively since April 2018.
On October 31st, 2018, a joint request was made by the governments of the U.K. and Canada, who both summoned Zuckerberg to testify on issues surrounding the Cambridge Analytica scandal — the firm that helped with U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign by harvesting data from millions of Facebook users.
As Chair of the Access to Information, Privacy & Ethics Committee in Canada am working with my counterpart in the UK MP @DamianCollins to call on @Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before an International Grand Committee on disinformation and ‘fake news’ Nov 27, 2018. #ETHI pic.twitter.com/8iOlXZVpoV
— Bob Zimmer MP (@bobzimmermp) October 31, 2018
“I along with my counterpart in the U.K. Damian Collins, wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg asking him to appear before our international grand committee in London…We’ve already asked him in Canada twice and he’s chosen not to appear,” Zimmer said in a Twitter video posted on October 31st, 2018. “We want to hear from Mark Zuckerberg directly, his response to the data breach in Canada and the U.K. and also the response to how they’re going to handle fake news in the future.”
Zimmer said in the video that he was “deeply concerned” about the effects of Facebook on “our democracies.”
Facebook put out a statement since then indicating that they will not send Zuckerberg and never have done so to appear and testify in committee. Facebook indicated it would only send senior representatives to confront lawmakers, which Angus said was not acceptable.
“The fact that…a massive corporation who has lobbied the Canadian government, who looks for breaks from the Canadian government, shows disrespect to the Canadian Parliament, I think that to me sends a wrong message for corporate leaders,” Angus said. “We are hoping Mr. Zuckerberg will come and we expect he will come and we will deal with what comes out of the decision when we get to the U.K.”
Angus also noted that he wasn’t sure where the ETHI committee would be after the Tuesday meeting, but that committee chairs would be “asking a series of questions hopefully to Mr. Zuckerberg based on what we felt came out of the testimony that we heard.”
He added that it was time for Facebook to “show some level of coherent understanding of their social responsibilities” and be present to answer questions or else it might be time to “start looking at various jurisdictions at legislating and…maybe treating them as a utility.”
Since the initial joint proposal, at least six other countries have also asked to sign onto the proposal for Zuckerberg to appear in front of the committee, including Singapore, Australia, Argentina, Ireland, Brazil, and Latvia, Angus said.
He added that the joint U.K.-Canada committee drafted a second letter with other countries that was sent to Zuckerberg on November 16th, 2018.
While Angus expects Zuckerberg to deliver testimony, Conservative MP Peter Kent, also a member of the ETHI committee, told MobileSyrup he doesn’t think the CEO will appear.
“I don’t have any expectation of Mr. Zuckerberg accepting the invitation to the U.K. event,” Kent said in an email.