“We can hold him in contempt”: Canadian MP says Zuckerberg should address gathering of parliaments

If Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg refuses to address an unprecedented joint “international grand committee” of members of at least five parliaments on Nov. 27, a Canadian politician told CBS News he’ll consider issuing a subpoena for the social media baron to appear before that country’s legislature, which could even hold Zuckerberg in contempt if he’s a no-show again.

Zuckerberg initially turned down an initial invitation by Canadian Member of Parliament Bob Zimmer and his British counterpart Damian Collins, whose committees are investigating disinformation and online election influence campaigns, but he was invited again Wednesday after Argentina, Australia and Ireland signed on to the joint inquiry.

A spokesperson for the British Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which is heading up the effort, wrote in an email to CBS News Friday that lawmakers from even more countries may soon join the effort.

“There is growing interest from other nations to join the committee,” the spokesperson said. She did not indicate which specific countries are interested.

Facebook was given a Nov. 12 deadline to reply to the renewed offer, and has not yet done so. The company did not respond when asked if the total number of nations involved in the committee would affect its decision.

Zimmer, who is chair of the Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, said the growling list of countries participating should be a sign to Facebook that the governments won’t be satisfied unless Zuckerberg meets with them.

“What we hope he’s seeing in us is that we’re not quitting,” Zimmer said. “There are some tools in Parliament that we have available. We can subpoena him and if he does not come we can hold him in contempt.”

Zimmer acknowledged that because Zuckerberg is an American citizen, he cannot be forced to appear before Canada’s governing body, but added, “If he wants to do business in Canada being held in contempt isn’t helpful.”

“Being held in contempt of Parliament really does not look good on a résumé,” Zimmer said.

Facebook did not reply to a question from CBS News about the possibility that Zuckerberg could face a subpoena or contempt finding. 

Contempt of parliament citations for individuals have very rarely been invoked in Canada’s history. The most recent instance was a 2011 case involving a government official accused of misleading a committee.

The effort to get Zuckerberg to appear before the multi-nation investigation comes after Britain’s Information Commissioner released a report Monday concluding that “Facebook… failed to keep [users’] personal information secure because it failed to make suitable checks on apps and developers using its platform.” 

Her conclusion mirrors that of a scathing preliminary report on “disinformation and fake news” written by the U.K. committee in July. It called for increased oversight of social media companies and election campaigns, while highlighting the use of “scraped” Facebook data by companies associated with the successful Brexit campaign and President Donald Trump’s 2016 run.

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