Facebook VP Richard Allan faces grilling, but Mark Zuckerberg refused to attend
A chair was pointedly left open with Zuckerberg's name printed on a place card in front of it at the inaugural 'Grand Committee on Disinformation' hearing.
LONDON — Lawmakers from around the world berated a top Facebook executive over “fake news” on Tuesday at a hearing that CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to attend.
Politicians and other top officials from nine countries were grilling Richard Allan, the social media giant’s vice president of policy solutions.
Representatives from countries including the U.K., Canada, Ireland, Argentina, Brazil, Singapore and Latvia invited Zuckerberg to give evidence, even by video link, but he declined. France and Belgium also attended Tuesday's hearing at the House of Commons in London.
A chair was pointedly left open with Zuckerberg's name printed on a place card in front of it.
The event is billed as the inaugural "Grand Committee on Disinformation.” It was organized by Damian Collins, the British lawmaker who chairs a parliamentary committee investigating disinformation and the use of people's data.
Collins said he was "deeply disappointed by Zuckerberg's decision to ignore summons from so many nations."
Among the concerns raised by lawmakers was Facebook's policies regarding third-party application developers and the use and collection of user data.
Allan admitted that the company has "damaged public trust through some of the actions we have taken."
The firm has confirmed that it had hired Republican-linked Definers Public Affairs to launch a smear campaign against billionaire George Soros.
"We have to start looking at a method of holding you and your company to be accountable, because Mr. Zuckerberg, who is not here, doesn’t appear to be willing to do the job himself," said Charlie Angus, a Canadian lawmaker.
Ian Lucas, a British politician, questioned Allan on when Zuckerberg became aware of the improper use of data for targeted political ads by the firm Cambridge Analytica and whether the company has taken action against other third-party developers for similar data breaches.
Allan said there have been a "number of actions taken" against developers but added, "I don't have in front of me today all of the answers to all of the questions."
The committee turned up the heat by seizing confidential Facebook documents from the developer of a now-defunct bikini photo-searching app.
The documents contain revelations Facebook has been fighting to keep out of the public domain, The Observer newspaper reported. The committee used its powers to force the chief executive Six4Three, Theodore Kramer, who was on a business trip to London, to turn over the files. Kramer refused but was escorted to parliament and told he risked imprisonment if he didn't comply, The Observer reported.
Collins later tweeted that this committee could publish the files if they were relevant to its inquiry.
Facebook wants the files to be kept secret and a judge in California ordered them sealed earlier this year.
"Six4Three's claims are entirely meritless," the company said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.