Culture Secretary Follows Zuckerberg to US Since He Won't Come Here

By Holly Brockwell on at

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has flown to California to track down Mark Zuckerberg for a meeting, since he flat-out refused to come and answer the government's questions on these shores.

Wright will meet Zuck at Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area, which will likely be a more pleasant setting than a parliamentary committee's meeting room. It's not known whether Facebook's spin doctor, Sir Nicholas William Peter Clegg (yes, that really is his full name) will turn up to the meeting or avoid an awkward clash with a fellow Brit now that he's defected.

The government will soon be announcing its plans for regulating social media, and the effects of platforms like Facebook -- as well as the Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp -- on young people will be a key consideration.

The meeting is bound to be at least a little tense, given that Zuckerberg was repeatedly asked to come and defend his platform's crappy record in front of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport's select committee, and failed to do so. There was even talk of finding him in contempt of parliament for a while, although it seemed like a bit of an empty threat in response to an embarrassing snub.

Wright explains what he's hoping to get from the exchange:

"The British public have legitimate concerns about their safety and security online and, as a responsible government, we are taking action.

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.

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."

No doubt the topic of fake news will also come up, as it tends to in any discussion about Facebook, official or not.

Wright and digital policy minister Margot James will also be meeting Apple, Google, Snapchat, Tinder and Twitter while they're in the States, although the absence of TikTok -- a huge global community with many young members -- suggests the government still doesn't know as much as it thinks it does about social and the web.

Main image: AP