Facebook: MPs in new attempt to question Mark Zuckerberg

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Mark ZuckerbergImage source, Reuters

MPs are stepping up their campaign to get Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to appear before them to answer questions on data privacy and disinformation.

The Commons Digital Culture is joining forces with its Canadian counterpart to hold a joint hearing on 27 November.

Its chair Damian Collins has urged Mr Zuckerberg to appear, saying his "evidence is now overdue and urgent".

The tech boss, who has appeared before the US Congress and EU Parliament, has previously sent a representative.

Next month's hearing, to take place in Westminster, will involve both British and Canadian politicians.

Mr Collins and Bob Zimmer, the chairman of the Canadian standing committee on access to information, privacy and ethics, have written a joint letter requesting Mr Zuckerberg's presence.

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"Over the past year, our committees have both sought evidence from a Facebook executive with sufficient authority to give an accurate account of recent failures of process, including the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal and subsequent data breaches," they wrote.

"Given your self-declared objective to 'fix' Facebook, and to prevent the platform's malign use in world affairs and democratic process, we would like to give you the chance to appear at this hearing.

"We call on you to take up this historic opportunity to tell parliamentarians from both sides of the Atlantic and beyond about the measures Facebook is taking to halt the spread of disinformation on your platform, and to protect user data."

Facebook was fined £500,000 earlier this year after the UK's data protection watchdog found it had given app developers access to up to 87 million users' data "without clear consent".

Some of the data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, which used it to target political advertising in the US.

Mr Collins told Sky News that Mr Zuckerberg was the ultimate decision maker in the company and he must account for mistakes which left people's data "so available and vulnerable".

After Mr Zuckerberg sent his chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, to appear before the committee in April, MPs threatened to issue his boss with a formal summons to appear himself when next in the UK.

Explaining his decision, the Facebook boss said Mr Schroepfer had extensive experience and was well placed to answer MPs' questions on the company's business practices.

In a letter to MPs at the time, he said Facebook "fully recognises" the level of public and Parliamentary interest in these issues and agreed that they must be addressed "at the most senior levels of the company by those in an authoritative position".