Facebook to Send VP Instead of Zuckerberg to International Committee on Disinformation

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaves the Elysee presidential palace, in Paris, on May 23, 2018 following a meeting with French President on the day of the "Tech for Good" summit. (Credit: ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

Facebook is sending a vice president of public policy to face questioning from a first of its kind international committee on disinformation and “fake news.”

The hearing will be held on Tuesday in London and will feature members of parliament from seven countries: the United Kingdom, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Latvia and Singapore.

The United Kingdom’s Digital, Media, Culture and Sport committee, which is hosting the hearing at the UK Parliament, had been asking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to attend for months.

But Facebook declined multiple invitations to send Zuckerberg, saying in a letter to the committee last week that he is “not able to be in London.” The company also said they couldn’t make Zuckerberg available via videolink.

Instead Facebook will send Richard Allan, the company’s VP of policy for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Facebook has come under international scrutiny over data breaches, data gathering, the spread of misinformation and Russian interference in elections.

The company is again under fire after a New York Times investigation last week suggested the company had attempted to ignore and conceal Russian interference on its platform. The Times also reported that Facebook had hired a public relations firm that dug up dirt on its critics.

“The Committee still believes that Mark Zuckerberg is the appropriate person to answer important questions about data privacy, safety, security and sharing,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “The recent New York Times investigation raises further questions about how recent data breaches were allegedly dealt with within Facebook, and when the senior leadership team became aware of the breaches and the spread of Russian disinformation.”

In the letter to the committee, Facebook said Zuckerberg sent his “apologies” and said the company “remain happy to cooperate with your inquiry.”

The UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham will also testify. The ICO recently fined Facebook £500,000, around $640,310, for breaches of data protection law related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook said this week they plan to appeal the fine because they claim the ICO found “no evidence to suggest that information of Facebook users in the UK was ever shared” with Cambridge Analytica its affiliates to influence voters in the United Kingdom.

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