Mark Zuckerberg will face a public grilling at the European Parliament on Tuesday, after a rebellion by MEPs over plans to hold the meeting in private.
The Facebook founder is coming to Brussels to answer questions about his company’s policies on personal data, privacy, and the social network’s impact on elections – facing an interrogation by leaders of the assembly’s political groups.
The tech boss has so far refused similar requests to appear at the UK Parliament– prompting British MPs to warn that they might issue a formal summons for him to appear. In April he spent two days testifying before the US Congress.
Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, had announced last week that the meeting would be held behind closed doors. But on Monday he confirmed it would be livestreamed over the internet, following interventions in public and behind the scenes by the socialist, liberal, and green groups.
“I have personally discussed with Facebook CEO Mr Zuckerberg the possibility of webstreaming the meeting with him,” Mr Tajani said.
“I am glad to announce that he has accepted this new request. Great news for EU citizens. I thank him for the respect shown towards European Parliament. Meeting tomorrow from 18:15 to 19:30.”
As well as Mr Zuckerberg’s visit, representatives from Facebook management are set to appear before the European Parliament’s justice and home affairs committee at a later date to answer more detailed questions.
Post-Brexit, the UK will have no platform to question him if he continues to snub Westminster
Claude Moraes, chair of European Parliament’s home affairs and justice committee
Tuesday’s meeting will consist of Mr Zuckerberg, Mr Tajani, and the chair of the Parliament’s home affairs committee, British Labour MEP Claude Moraes.
They will also be joined by the leaders of the European Parliament’s political groups: the centre-right EPP, the centre-left socialists, the liberal ALDE, the right-wing ECR, the eurosceptic EFFD, the Greens, the Left, and the far-right ENF.
Mark Zuckerberg says that Facebook obtaining information from phone calls is a ‘conspiracy theory’
Notable figures among the leaders include Nigel Farage, who leads the EFFD, Manfred Weber, an ally of Angela Merkel who leads the largest EPP group, and Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the liberals.
Mr Moraes said he would “ask searching questions on behalf of 500 million Europeans”. He pledged to grill the tech boss on the allegations surrounding the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
He added: “The announcement … shows where the real influence lies, and where the best forum is to unearth the facts – highlighting how, post-Brexit, the UK will have no platform to question him if he continues to snub Westminster.”
The Silicon Valley CEO has been invited to appear before the British Parliament but has so far declined. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which asked him to attend one of its sessions, has said it will issue a “formal summons for [Mr Zuckerberg] to appear when he is next in the UK”. Contempt of Parliament is an offence in the UK, though it has been untested in the courts in recent times.