Sorry, Mr Zuckerberg isn't in London that day. Or that one. Nope. I'd give up if I were you

Facebook boss delays, denies and deflects more invitations to international committee


"Delay, deny and deflect." Turns out Facebook's strategy for dealing with major threats works pretty well for small fry too because Mark Zuckerberg has once again turned down MPs' advances.

The UK's digital committee has been trying to get Mark Zuckerberg to have a chat with them since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke in April. Its latest tactic is an "international grand committee" made up of parliamentary committees from five different nations.

As we reported, Zuck has said no to this gang once this month already, but the group is, if nothing else, insistent, rolling out the same old excuses for the Nth time.

In her letter, Rebecca Stimson, UK head of public policy – who must be infuriated at the prospect of regurgitating the same trite lines to MPs until perhaps Zuck quits as CEO – said that Mark is very busy and won't be in London on the day suggested.

But not to worry, because Facebook has people – teams of people! – working on all the things they're worried about. "You may have heard us refer to some of this work already during the many hearings and communications we've had with committees and Governments around the world," she said (through gritted teeth).

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There's an "extensive" team working on "false news," the letter stated; a "very active" security team hunting down "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" – or using fake accounts to advance an agenda – and "inter-disciplinary teams" trying to ensure major elections aren't messed up.

But the merry-go-round must continue, and so digital committee chairman Damian Collins has issued his usual dismayed and disappointed statements, promising not to let the matter rest.

"We believe Mark Zuckerberg has important questions to answer," he said.

"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."

The committee, he said, "will not let the matter rest there, and are not reassured in any way by the corporate puff piece that passes off as Facebook's letter back to us."

El Reg is doubtful that Facebook will pay much attention to the MP, no matter how hard-hitting his words were, as it is facing much more serious accusations – and leaks – from The New York Times.

The in-depth report, published yesterday, paints a picture of a firm struggling to play politics, failing to tackle crises and looking on as a series of increasingly serious scandals hit, from Russian interference to the failure to protect users' data.

Spin doctors

Top execs reportedly delegated major decisions to subordinates, kept quiet about internal audits into the platform's problems, and brought in a PR firm to peddle conspiracy theories to deflect the blame.

The firm has issued some basic rebuttals – it didn't know about Russian activity early on and was slow to investigate it – and a mealy-mouthed half-denial that its PR firm claimed Facebook's detractors were in the pocket of prominent billionaire George Soros.

The one thing it didn't deny was that Zuck had ordered his team to use Android phones after Apple boss Tim Cook took the opportunity to spin the data-harvesting scandal to his advantage.

"Tim Cook has consistently criticized our business model and Mark has been equally clear he disagrees. So there's been no need to employ anyone else to do this for us," Facebook said.

"And we've long encouraged our employees and executives to use Android because it is the most popular operating system in the world." ®

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