Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to face questions from the European parliament – the Facebook founder's second appearance before legislators since the global data scandal engulfed the tech giant.
In a move that is sure to upset UK parliamentarians, Zuckerberg has taken up an invitation to appear in Brussels before a select group of lawmakers and senior EU officials, according to the president of the European parliament Antonio Tajani.
"The founder and CEO of Facebook has accepted our invitation and will be in Brussels as soon as possible, hopefully already next week, to meet the leaders of the political groups and the Chair and the Rapporteur of the Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs," Tajani said.
"I welcome Mark Zuckerberg's decision to appear in person before the representatives of 500 million Europeans," the president added.
On Monday, Tajani tweeted to say that Zuckerberg had agreed for the session to be livestreamed after members of the European Parliament had expressed concern about the meeting taking place behind closed doors.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed last week that Zuckerberg would meet with EU officials: "We have accepted the Council of President's proposal to meet with leaders of the European Parliament and appreciate the opportunity for dialogue, to listen to their views and show the steps we are taking to better protect people’s privacy."
Soon after news of the European trip broke, Reuters reported Zuckerberg would also be meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris on May 23.
Zuckerberg has repeatedly turned down appearing before the UK Commons Digital Culture, Media and Sport committee, which has threatened the tech billionaire with a summons to face questions.
An EU source told BuzzFeed News: "Mark Zuckerberg had shown a willingness [to engage with us], which was not the case of the British parliament."
Yesterday, Politico reported Tajani had floated a proposal of a closed-door hearing lasting 1 hour and 20 minutes.
The original decision to not livestream the session had angered some MEPs, who were pushing for Zuckerberg to face questions in public. Last Wednesday, EU officials gave the meeting a green light.
Zuckerberg's appearance is expected to come as Europe's sweeping new data laws known as GDPR come into force.
Yesterday, the House of Commons media committee chair Damian Collins said if Zuckerberg wouldn't appear in person, they could organise a video link.
“If Mark Zuckerberg truly recognises the ‘seriousness’ of these issues as they say they do, we would expect that he would want to appear in front of the Committee and answer questions that are of concern not only to Parliament, but Facebook’s tens of millions of users in this country," Collins said.
"Although Facebook says Mr Zuckerberg has no plans to travel to the UK, we would also be open to taking his evidence by video link, if that would be the only way to do this during the period of our inquiry."
But the reply from Facebook UK's head of public policy Rebecca Stimson suggests the company has been left frustrated with the UK parliament.
"In the UK we provided written submissions to this inquiry, we have provided senior officials to give evidence to the Committee's session in Washington, one of the most senior people in the company has given 5 hours of testimony in the UK Parliament and today we have answered the 39 further questions provided by the Committee.
"We were disappointed after providing a very significant amount of information to the Committee at the last hearing the Committee declared our response insufficient."
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alberto Nardelli is Europe editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alberto Nardelli at email@example.com.
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