MPs have threatened to issue Mark Zuckerberg with a formal summons to appear in front of parliament when he next enters the UK, unless he voluntarily agrees to answer questions about the activities of his social network and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Damian Collins, the chair of the parliamentary committee that is investigating online disinformation, said he was unhappy with the information the company had provided and wanted to hear evidence from the Facebook chief executive before parliament went into recess on 24 May.
This would be the Damian Collins who was elected by 32,000 people in the constituency of Folkestone and Hythe. Commenter Ottokring had this to say about him:
D Collins is my local MP and is an utter c*nt.
“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,” Collins wrote in a public letter to Facebook. “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.”
What are they going to do, wait for him at Heathrow arrivals? Could they come across as any more impotent if they tried?
The digital, culture, media, and sport committee has repeatedly invited Zuckerberg to give evidence but Facebook has sent more junior executives to answer questions from MPs.
Which is what this is all about: MPs believe they are important enough that none other than the CEO should appear before them to answer questions.
Facebook declined to comment on the possibility of a formal summons. In theory, Zuckerberg could be found in contempt of parliament if he refuses one.
When Rupert Murdoch and his son James resisted appearing in front of a select committee in 2011, it was speculated that potential punishments could include “fines and imprisonment”.
In reality it is likely that, at worst, the punishment for ignoring such a summons would include an arcane process resulting in little more than a formal warning from the House of Commons.
At which point Zuckerberg starts sharing MPs’ Facebook Messenger histories.
MPs have debated making it a criminal offence for potential witnesses to ignore formal summons to select committees, following attempts by Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley to avoid answering questions.
I expect this debate ended rapidly when someone asked: “Can Iraqi MPs summon Tony Blair?”
“It’s a hard job for parliament to make a foreign national come,” said White. “What’s the Serjeant at Arms going to do? Patrol all the ports and airports to see if he’s coming in?”
Precisely. This is empty posturing, but that’s what the government does best these days, isn’t it?