Empty seats for Zuckerberg and Sandberg at committee in Ottawa

A committee of international elected officials voted to force Facebook bosses Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to explain the shortcomings of their platform the next time they set foot in Canada.
Zuckerberg and Sandberg were absent Tuesday from the International Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy in Ottawa, despite many invitations from Canadian parliamentarians.

MPs from a dozen countries, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany and Mexico, among others, are present for this meeting.

Facebook’s bosses were treated to a flurry of greenwood from committee members, who left them two empty seats with their names at the table. Facebook Canada spokespersons for the occasion, Kevin Chan and Neil Potts, had to sit on each side.

Right from the start, New Democrat Charlie Angus, who is vice-chair of the committee, said he was “very surprised” by the absence of Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg.

“It’s not acceptable. Zuckerberg has the responsibility to respond to international lawmakers, “he denounced, citing mass killings and electoral interference due to platform failures.

Conservative MP Jacques Gourde agrees that it is not because the multinational is powerful that it should not respect the rules in place.

“If you have a Porsche that goes 250 kilometers an hour and your highway allows you to go 100 kilometers an hour, it’s not because you can afford a Porsche that you can not be safe for others, “he said.

Visibly annoyed during the meeting, Mr. Potts, Facebook’s Global Policy Director, replied that he had the support of his bosses to answer all the committee’s questions.

But throughout the meeting, Facebook spokespersons dodged several questions from international parliamentarians, saying they were not aware of specific cases.

British MP Jo Stevens said she was “disgusted to death” to hear hours of “platitudes” from platform representatives. “I want the boss here,” she pleaded.

If Mr. Zuckerberg or Ms. Sandberg refuses to appear before the committee, they could be found in contempt of Parliament, according to committee chair Bob Zimmer.

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