Zuck ducks

Mark Zuckerberg declines to answer U.K. lawmakers' questions — for the third time
March 27, 2018, 1:41pm

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has declined to appear before U.K. lawmakers in London to answer questions about the Cambridge Analytica controversy. Instead, Zuckerberg offered to send one of his executives, Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer or Chief Product Officer Chris Cox.

This is the third time Zuckerberg has refused to answer U.K. lawmakers’ questions. He previously turned down a request to appear before the same committee in London, and more recently he failed to appear in Congress when U.K. lawmakers traveled to the U.S. to probe tech companies about the spread of fake news.

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In a letter sent to Digital, Media, Culture and Sport Committee Chairman Damian Collins, Rebecca Stimson, Facebook's head of public policy in the U.K. said: “Facebook fully recognizes the level of public and Parliamentary interest in these issues and support your belief that these issues must be addressed at the most senior levels of the company by those in an authoritative position.”.

Stimson added: “As such Mr. Zuckerberg has personally asked one of his deputies to make themselves available to give evidence in person to the Committee.”

Zuckerberg has come under intense pressure in the last 10 days since it emerged that an app designed by Cambridge University data scientist Aleksandr Kogan harvested the data from roughly 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge. That data was then shared with Cambridge Analytica, a controversial firm that was hired by the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

When asked why Zuckerberg would not be appearing in person, a Facebook spokesperson told VICE News that the request specified Zuckerberg or “a senior Facebook executive” attend the committee. Cox and Schroepfer, the Facebook spokesperson said, both report directly to the CEO and both have more than 10 years experience working at the company.

The spokesperson also pointed out that less than 1 percent of the downloads of Kogan’s app were EU-based.

Collins said the committee would happily hear from Cox or Schroepfer, but reiterated his desire to question the Facebook co-founder. “Given the seriousness of these issues, we still believe that Mark Zuckerberg is the right person to give evidence,” the lawmaker said, during a hearing of the DMCS committee during which Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie answered lawmakers questions about his former employer.

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Collins added that Facebook didn’t make it clear that Zuckerberg had explicitly refused to appear, and so it will be writing to the company again to repeat its demand that the CEO answer questions in person.

While Facebook and other tech companies have long been in the crosshairs of lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic, the focus is now switching to the people who are leading these companies.

“I am flabbergasted that the CEOs of these companies seem to be happy to answer questions from their shareholders, but not from the lawmakers who represent all Americans," Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner said Monday night.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley on Monday officially invited Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to an April 10 hearing on “the future of data privacy in the social media industry and how to develop 'rules of the road.’”