The social media giant Facebook is arguably embroiled in its biggest scandal to date with growing allegations that it sold users data to marketing firm Cambridge Analytica. A social media phenomenon has since swept rival platform Twitter with #DeleteFacebook becoming commonplace over the last few days. Many have called for Facebook to provide quick and effective reassurance that the details of its millions of users are indeed being kept private. Following the launch of investigations in both the UK and USA; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned to answer questions by MPs on the Digital, Media and Sports Committee. The problem for MPs though is that less than a week after the request was issued, Zuckerberg has refused to appear.
Conservative MP Damian Collins has blasted Zuckerberg’s decision not to appear as an astonishing one, pointing out that the UK is one of Facebook’s biggest market. This is not as surprising as Collins makes out, however, what makes it seem worse is Zuckerberg’s decision to appear before US Congress. It would seem apparent that Zuckerberg now accepts question shave to be asked but has for reasons known only to him, chosen Washington DC as opposed to London.
Zuckerberg’s testimony will talk place before the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Commerce Committee on the provisional date of 12th April 2018. Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Theresa May commented on the issue saying: –
“Mr. Zuckerberg will decide for himself whether he wants to come before the committee, but what I hope, is that Facebook will recognise why this is so significant for people and why it is that people are so concerned about it, and ensure that the committee is able to get the answers that they want”
It is important to note that whilst Collins has urged Zuckerberg to think again; Parliament has not been completely snubbed and Chief Product Officer Chris Cox will attend on Facebook’s behalf. Collins stated: –
“Given the extraordinary evidence that we’ve heard so far; it is absolutely astonishing that Mark Zuckerberg is not prepared to submit himself to questioning. These are questions of a fundamental importance and concern to Facebook users, as well as to our inquiry as well. I would certainly urge him to think again if he has any care for people that use his company’s services”
The issue regarding Cambridge Analytica though now extends far beyond Facebook with a Vote Leave whistle-blower implying that the referendum was heavily skewed by Analytica’s influence and covert funding. Opinion entirely depends on where people sit in the referendum debate and the idea of Brexit but a wide range of views can be found here.
Zuckerberg has apologised profusely and admitted that the organisation made mistakes and must work to rectify them and reassure consumers. However, expecting Zuckerberg to surrender himself to questioning in a foreign jurisdiction was always unrealistic and it may be the UK has to get its answers from US counterparts. In future, a joint investigation on such issues may prove more expedient than separate inquiries.