International Governments Increase Pressure on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg
Damian Collins MP in conversation with Stewart Purvis CBE at The Media Society
The Media Society hosted an interview session at Soho’s renowned Groucho Club between Stewart Purvis, CBE the former Chief Executive and Editor in Chief of ITN and Damian Collins MP on ‘Making Sense of Modern Media’.
Collins has risen to prominence in recent years as the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS). According to the Media Society, ‘He is fearless, brooks no excuses and goes into places others fear to tread. ’Fake News’, the power of the Silicon Valley behemoths, corruption in sport, his Committee has probed them all with outstanding results.’
Purvis’ interview questions to Collins ranged from an update on Brexit, ‘I don’t think we are ready for a hard Brexit in March’ to the antics of Aaron Banks during his select committee hearing and his subsequent of writing to each household in Collins’ parliamentary constituency of Folkestone and Hythe, telling them that he is a “disgrace” and a “snake in the grass”.
But Collins really came to life when discussing his desire to question one of the most influential people in the world, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook about the prevalence of fake accounts, the misuse of personal data and the ease with which extreme content is distributed across social media.
He doubted the notion that Zuckerberg and his peers are utopian Californians, purely hoping to connect and change the world for the better and emphasised the role that generating huge advertising revenues plays in their approach.
Collins observed: “We see something really disappointing with people like Mark Zuckerberg which is a view of ‘I don’t have to come, you can’t make me come’”. He compared this attitude to the actions of US citizen and media mogul Rupert Murdoch who “recognised that the act of a responsible owner of a company would be to appear in front of the British Parliament.”
With Zuckerberg refusing to answer questions before the DCMS committee, citing time constraints, Collins has vowed to make life easier for Zuckerberg by setting-up an unprecedented international grand committee. This international committee numbers representatives from a total of eight countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Latvia and Singapore, as well as the UK and is scheduled to take place in Westminster on 27th November.
“I think to create this international platform with representatives from around the world, I don’t think he has an excuse to say well I can’t do everybody. If he refuses to do so, then people will see it for what it is. That he is evading scrutiny and they can make their own mind up as to why.” said Collins.
Following this international invitation, Facebook responded with a letter confirming that that Mark Zuckerberg will not give evidence to the international joint hearing. In response Collins called the letter “a corporate puff piece” and vowed, “we will not let the matter rest there”.
But what realistically can the likes of Collins do to scrutinise powerful figures with no obligation to submit to the scrutiny of the UK parliament? One option mentioned was to ‘empty chair’ Zuckerberg in an attempt to embarrass him in front of the international community.
“The fact that he has continually declined to give evidence, not just to my committee, but now to an unprecedented international grand committee, makes him look like he’s got something to hide.“ concluded Collins.
To keep an eye on Collins’ progress with Mark Zuckerberg follow Collins’ Twitter feed here: https://twitter.com/DamianCollins