UK Parliament to Zuckerberg: Come talk to us or face a 'formal summons'

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Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., listens during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., listens during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Mark Zuckerberg's appearance before lawmakers on Capitol Hill last month was so awkward and uncomforable that it's easy to understand why the Facebook CEO has so far declined a similar request from British lawmakers to testify. But now, in a remarkable bit of media theater, Members of Parliament are making clear that their request is actually more of a demand.

Today MP Damian Collins of the House of Commons' Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee ("a cross-party committee of MPs appointed to scrutinise the Government") sent a formal letter to Facebook Head of Public Policy Rebecca Stimson thanking her for helping to arrange the appearance of Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer before the committee and noting that he left many questions unanswered—and then, with proper British reserve, stating that "We therefore re-state our invitation to Mark Zuckerberg." The politeness, though, falls away in the next paragraph of Collins' letter, which reads,

It is worth noting that, while Mr Zuckerberg does not normally come under the jurisdiction of the UK Parliament, he will do so the next time he enters the country. We hope that he will respond positively to our request, but if not the Committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for him to appear when he is next in the UK.

It's hard to imagine it could actually come to that—Facebook will want to avoid the indignity of having its chief formally summoned to appear and will need to make Zuckerberg available. At the same time, it's also hard to imagine that Zuckerberg will be better qualified to answer MPs' technical questions than Facebook's chief technology officer.

The real problem with Schroepfer, of course, is he's not the best "get" for politically ambitious MPs. There's an implicit dis to Parliament in Facebook sending one of the executive pups instead of its top dog. Schroepfer's appearance simply couldn't capture the news cycle in the way that Zuckerberg's testimony would (er, will). And Schroepfer's testimony has also falled to fuel a cottage industry in gif-creation and meme-making the way that Zuckerberg's Congressional testimony did.

That said, British lawmakers should be careful what they wish for. Any number of MPs seem like perfect targets for the Bad Lip Reading treatment.

Meanwhile, read Damian Collins' full letter here:

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