Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will finally meet with a representative of the UK government after a UK parliamentary report this week excoriated the social media site for behaving like “digital gangsters.”
According to The Guardian, the UK’s culture secretary Jeremy Wright has flown out this Thursday to Facebook’s headquarters in California to talk with Zuckerberg in person. The Facebook CEO has refused repeated requests by the UK Parliament to answer questions in person over issues including misinformation and data privacy.
“The British public have legitimate concerns about their safety and security online and, as a responsible government, we are taking action,” said Wright, head of the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), in a press statement. While in the US, Wright will also be meeting with representatives from Twitter, Google, YouTube, and Apple.
BBC News reports that Wright will have just 30 minutes to talk with Zuckerberg. However, he should be able to hold the CEO’s attention given that the UK is currently preparing new regulations that will make online platforms more responsible for the content published on their sites and apps. Wright said as much in his press statement, noting that “the era of self-regulation is coming to an end.”
The UK is expected to announce its new regulatory framework in the coming weeks. Reports suggest that the framework won’t make platforms as liable for content as traditional publishers, but that there will be new restrictions, as well as a possible independent regulator and mandatory code of ethics.
In anticipation of the new regulations, some US firms have been more active in policing their content. Earlier this month, for example, Instagram introduced new “sensitivity screens” that hide images involving self-harm. The move was partly a response to the death of British teenager Molly Russell, who died by suicide last year, and whose family say followed multiple Instagram accounts that promoted self-harm and suicide.
Facebook is facing new laws that could hurt revenue across Europe. Last year, the UK’s chancellor Philip Hammond announced a new “digital services tax” that’s expected to come into force in 2020, and earlier this month, Germany ordered Facebook to stop combining user data without consent — a move that could damage the company’s ad business. The less willing Facebook is to self-regulate, the more governments will be encouraged to act more directly.