Update: Following Mark Zuckerberg declining the 'invitation' to speak in front of MPs, the head of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee has renewed its attempts to speak with Zuckerberg in person - rather than some other random Facebook executive.
Damian Collins, who also authored the original letter sent to Zuckerberg, says the serious of the allegations means it would be "appropriate" for the Facebook CEO to speak to the committee - whether it's in person of via videolink.
"We'd be very happy to invite Mr Cox [Facebook CPO] to give evidence, however we would still like to hear from Mr Zuckerberg as well.
We will seek to clarify with Facebook whether he is available to give evidence or not, because that wasn't clear from our correspondence, and if he is available to give evidence then we would be happy to do that either in person or via video link if that would be more convenient for him."
It feels like Collins is being far too polite, and if the committee really does consider the allegations made against Facebook to be that serious then they should put their foot down and tell Zuckerberg he has to do it. After all, Cambridge Analytica's data has been linked to the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential election, so it's fair that both the US and UK governments would demand answers.
Rather than talking to CNN and complaining about how he can't handle interviews, Zuckerberg should be willingly offering answers to people who can and will make life hell for his company in the countries Facebook operates in. It's not the time to try and avoid making the facts clear until you're forced to.
Original story follows:
For the past week or so, Mark Zuckerberg has been the most sought-after man in the Western world. Not only is he being bombarded with interview requests from major news outlets, his presence has also been requested by the US and UK governments. They want to question him about Facebook's role in the ongoing Cambridge Analytica scandal, but he's not really playing ball.
Zuckerberg tried to dodge the question of whether he will testify before the US Congress, claiming he could barely handle a CNN interview as an excuse, and now it's been confirmed that he will not be heading to Westminster to address our own parliament.
Instead Facebook is sending one of Zuckerberg's deputies, despite digital, culture, media and sport select committee head Damian Collins specifically requesting Zuckerberg turn up in person. He made that request in the form of a letter, giving the Facebook CEO until last night to respond.
Mark Zuckerberg declines request to appear before U.K. parliamentary committee and @DamianCollins. Recommends his Chief Technology Officer and Chief Product Officer instead. Full letter here: pic.twitter.com/Q6EueSHu8a
— Joe Mayes (@Joe_Mayes) March 27, 2018
Facebook did respond with a letter of its own confirming Zuckerberg will not be in attendance. Instead it would send either Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer or Chief Product Officer Chris Cox. Both of men aren't exactly regular underlings, commanding important positions at the company, but when a government requests your presence over alleged data breaches it's probably a good idea to turn up in person. There's a difference between ignoring interview requests from journalists and not playing ball with people with actual power.
Zuckerberg has repeatedly been criticised for his handling of the situation, amidst the furore that Facebook might have been complicit in Cambridge Analyticas alleged handling of Facebook user data. Not only has he seemingly been reluctant to apologise for the whole ordeal, it took some time for him to actually address the situation in person.
The letter to the committee didn't even come from Zuckerberg, instead coming from Rebecca Stimson, Facebook's head of public policy here in the UK.
"Facebook fully recognises 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 to answer your questions. As such Mr Zuckerberg has personally asked one of his deputies to make themselves available to give evidence to the Committee."
It apparently doesn't explain why Zuckerberg won't be attending in person. But as we've pointed out before he never bothered to deal with this sort of thing in the past, so why would he start now? [The Independent]