U.S. Markets open in 15 mins

Brazil, Singapore and Latvia join calls on Mark Zuckerberg to face 'Grand Committee' on fake news

Matthew Field
Mark Zuckerberg is facing growing calls to answer questions from Facebook's critics - REUTERS

Politicians from Brazil, Singapore and Latvia have joined calls for Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to stand before an international "Grand Committee" to testify on fake news and the company's handling of data breaches affecting millions.

International pressure has been growing on Facebook to answer to politicians over scandals on data gathering, Russian interference on elections and data breaches that have engulfed the company. 

In a letter to Mr Zuckerberg signed by members from eight parliaments, including British MPs of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee,  the signatories said: "We believe that there are important issues to be discussed, and that you are the appropriate person to answer them."

The UK's DCMS committee has been joined by politicians from Australia, Argentina, Ireland, Canada, as well as the three new signatories from Brazil, Singapore and Latvia.

The campaign is likely to complicate the task facing Sir Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister who Facebook  appointed last month to head up its global policy operation. He has since been tasked with reviewing Facebook's lobbying efforts after backlash over its tactics.

Mr Zuckerberg had until the end of Monday to issue a response. The MPs are due to convene on November 27 to grill the Facebook founder, if he attends. The politicians have also given Mr Zuckerberg the option to take a video call to address concerns.

Facebook declined to comment.

The UK's DCMS committee has issued multiple calls for Mark Zuckerberg to appear Credit: Bloomberg

The calls come after another damaging few days at Facebook. The company has been questioned over how much it knew about Russian attempts to spread misinformation during the US Presidential election in 2016. Russian hackers paid for fake adverts on Facebook and spread misleading stories to divide voters.

The committees said a recent report in the New York Times, which suggested Facebook knew earlier about Russian attempts to influence Facebook users than it has previously said, raised fresh concerns. "[The report] raises further questions about how recent data breaches were allegedly dealt with within Facebook," the committees said.

The letter is just the latest attempt to drag Mr Zuckerberg before politicians and comes after multiple refusals to do so from Facebook.

Last week, Facebook's head of UK public policy Rebecca Stimson told the committees Mr Zuckerberg was "not able to be in London on November 27". Facebook said reports it had been slow to investigate Russian interference attempts were "not true".

Facebook had previously sent its head of technology, Mike Schroepfer, to meet with MPs. Mr Zuckerberg has faced questions from the US Congress and European Parliament MEPs.

Politicians are demanding Facebook answer additional questions over Facebook's handling of election interference and its handling of data gathering by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, that was able to use information gleaned from millions of Facebook profiles for targeting political adverts.

Damian Collins, chair of the DCMS committee, told the Daily Telegraph last week that Facebook had been "completely disingenuous" in its responses to the committees so far.

It comes as Facebook was revealed to have gone on the offensive against rivals that had called for its to be broken up. It hired a Washington DC public relations firm to conduct opposition research on figures such as George Soros and encourage journalists to investigate his financial links to anti-Facebook organisations.

Mr Zuckerberg and his chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg were both criticised for the tactics.

On Monday, Facebook was said to have gone onto a "war" footing, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Its senior executives have tried to take a more decisive approach to crises, the report said.

However, it also claimed that Mr Zuckerberg had blamed the companies "bad morale" on attacks from the press, describing some reports in one meeting as "b*******".

Vikas Shah, a business management expert at MIT Sloan business school, said Facebook needed to "take responsibility and accountability in appropriately high level Q&As and hearings. It is absolutely right he should go in front of those."

Mr Shah added: "The victim mantra feels false and won’t improve morale."