Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has been called an “arrogant corporate elite” and a “coward” by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson for failing to answer questions from MPs.
He said that he felt the UK did not matter to Mr Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, because it is seen as “a little place on a map” and a “minor market to him”.
“You should always look to where you can do the most good – and what good comes from Mark Zuckerberg’s behaviour?,” Mr Watson said at an event in East London on Wednesday.
“He’s an arrogant corporate elite and he’s a coward – and he should be sitting in front of that Digital, [Culture, Media and Sport select] committee, which has cross-party unity and answering the questions that our democratic institutions need to know.
“For me, personally, the symbolism of that empty chair, having been through the phone hacking enquiry 10 years ago, it is really resonant.”
The Facebook chief executive has failed to turn up to hearings to answer questions before MPs on a range of social networking issues.
These issues include the tech giant’s handing of data breaches, allegations of business malpractice, repeated electoral interference and the rampant spread of disinformation and hate speech on the platform.
“It’s clear to me that for Zuckerberg…the United Kingdom is a little place on a map,” the MP continued.
“It’s a minor market for him and he doesn’t feel that he has to answer to the people in this room and to the citizens that use his services, and therefore, with that arrogance, the Government has to act.”
Speaking at the event organised by centre-left think tank Progressive Centre UK, the shadow secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, set out Labour’s view on the need for regulation of big tech firms.
Mr Watson said that tech firms with huge amounts of data on users needed to be held to account for happens on their platforms, similar to other industries.
“Unfortunately the leadership of some of these data monopolists have been so appalling that the only way you can get traction in their realm is to hit their bottom line,” he said.
“So when we talk about a regulator with teeth, we think that the fines regime has to be high enough to really hit these cash-rich monopolists, in order to change their behaviour.”
The MP for West Bromwich East said he was heartened that the Government wants change too, but accused it of being “dazzled by the scale of corporate profit for far too long without questioning how much of the value reaches the bulk of the population”.
A White Paper on online harms will be published by the Government by the end of winter setting out expectations for social media companies, followed by a consultation over the summer that will set out new laws that could enforce the removal of harmful content.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.