European parliament to livestream Mark Zuckerberg appearance

Facebook chief initially agreed to closed-door meeting, but will now speak publicly

Mark Zuckerberg will appear publicly before the European parliament on Tuesday, ending a terse standoff with the institution, but further inflaming tensions with the House of Commons, which has repeatedly requested an appearance from the Facebook founder.

The president of the European parliament, Antonio Tajani, announced on Monday morning that Zuckerberg’s appearance would be publicly livestreamed, following criticism that the Facebook chief executive had initially managed to persuade the body to meet him behind closed doors.

“I have personally discussed with Facebook CEO Mr Zuckerberg the possibility of webstreaming meeting with him,” Tajani tweeted. “I am glad to announce that he has accepted this new request. Great news for EU citizens. I thank him for the respect shown towards EP.”

Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear in front of the parliament’s conference of presidents at 5.15pm BST. The conference consists of the leaders of the parliament’s eight main political groups. Also in attendance will be the Labour MEP Claude Moraes, who chairs the European parliament’s home affairs committee, and Tajani.

The European parliament appearance may help thaw relations between Facebook and the EU, but it has further antagonised the British parliament, which has been repeatedly requesting that Zuckerberg appear in front of its digital, culture, media and sport select committee as part of an investigation into fake news.

Damian Collins, the chairman of the DCMS committee, said: “The Facebook data breach was executed in the UK and the data went to a UK company, affecting more than 1 million UK users.

“The UK parliament therefore should be able to question Mark Zuckerberg about this and the lessons to be learned from it, and we remain open to him giving evidence.”

Collins and the committee suggested a number of questions the European parliament should ask Zuckerberg, based on unsatisfactory answers given by one of his deputies, Mike Schroepfer, in April.

“If Mark Zuckerberg chooses not to address our questions directly, we are asking colleagues at the European parliament to help us get answers,” Collins said “Particularly on who knew what at the company, and when, about the data breach and the non-transparent use of political adverts which continue to undermine our democracy.”

As long as Zuckerberg remains outside Britain, there is little the committee can do to compel his testimony. However, it has discussed the prospect of issuing formal summons against the Facebook founder and other individuals who refuse to give evidence. If continually ignored, those could ultimately lead to arrest for contempt of parliament.


Alex Hern

The GuardianTramp

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