- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has refused calls from British politicians to appear before a parliamentary inquiry and explain his firm’s role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
- Zuckerberg has instead offered up two senior executives, the chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer and the chief product officer Chris Cox.
- The executives will have to explain how Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to scrape huge amounts of Facebook data without the company’s or users’ knowledge.
- The head of the parliamentary committee said he still wanted to hear from Zuckerberg directly.
Mark Zuckerberg has refused to appear directly before British politicians to explain Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal – and is offering to put senior executives in the firing line instead.
Rebecca Simon, Facebook’s head of public policy in the UK, responded to calls from the Conservative politician Damian Collins that Zuckerberg appear before a select committee inquiry into fake news.
She wrote to Collins: “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 in person to the Committee.”
The “deputies” offered up to MPs are two long-serving Facebook executives: the chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer and the chief product officer Chris Cox.
You can read the letter in full via this tweet from the Bloomberg reporter Joe Mayes:
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
Collins responded to Facebook’s letter in a statement Tuesday. He said “we would still like to hear from Mr Zuckerberg as well” but said that the committee was “very happy to invite Mr Cox to give evidence.”
Collins also released a written statement about Zuckerberg’s decision not to give evidence:
“Facebook has got many questions to answer that their executives have failed to answer in previous appearances before our Committee. As Mark Zuckerberg’s deputy we hope that Chris Cox has the sufficient authority and operational responsibility to concretely answer these questions.
“Given the seriousness of these issues we still believe that Mark Zuckerberg is the right person to give evidence, and would like him to confirm if he will make himself available to the Committee. He stated in interviews that if he is the right person to appear he will appear. We think he is the right person and look forward to hearing from him.”
Both of the Facebook executives willing to give evidence, Simon wrote, report directly to Zuckerberg. Schroepfer has previously commented on the role of fake news and Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. Cox has not commented on the scandal so prominently, but he’s an interesting choice and, along with the chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, is considered one of the most important executives at Facebook.
Collins called for Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence before the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee earlier this month, when The Observer reported that the political research firm Cambridge Analytica improperly scraped millions of Facebook user profiles via a third-party app. That data may then have been used for “psychographic” profile and to target US voters more precisely with political ads, though this is not clear.
It isn’t clear whether any of this Facebook data was used to target voters during the UK’s Brexit vote in 2016, though this is partly what Collins will try to establish during the inquiry.