European Parliaments faction leaders Wednesday accepted President Antonio Tajanis suggestion to invite Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg for a closed-door meeting.
The Italian parliament chief on Tuesday asked faction leaders for their thoughts on a suggestion to have Zuckerberg testify before a small group of the institutions most powerful MEPs behind closed doors — sparking protest from MEPs who said the CEO should face the same treatment as before U.S. Congress.
Another public testimony would allow a larger group of MEPs, led by the civil liberties committee, to grill lower-level Facebook executives in public.
Leaders of the political groups had until 3 p.m. Wednesday to respond to Tajanis proposed format. Several parliament officials told POLITICO the proposal got the support of a small majority in Parliament.
The Parliament president is in ongoing talks with Facebook about a Zuckerberg visit. Facebook has yet to say whether he would accept the invitation. The firm did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Parliaments group leaders previously decided that a Facebook hearing would be led by the civil liberties committee.
Syed Kamall, leader of the Conservative ECR group, said it “could be a good opportunity for Facebook to demonstrate that they understand the concerns.” “This should be about providing real answers and educating the public but I am concerned that some in the Parliament will want to turn this issue into a witch hunt of large companies that doesnt benefit anyone,” he added.
The far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom group said yes to Tajani.
“We dont think Zuckerberg will come, but were not against the invitation,” said Gerolf Annemans, an MEP in the group. “Our request is that the discussion doesnt only evolve around privacy but also about freedom of expression.”
The EFDD group of Nigel Farage asked Tajani to suggest an “open format” for Zuckerberg to testify, but the group didnt officially reject Tajanis proposal.
Centrist and left-leaning groups pushed back.
The Greens sent in an objection to President Tajanis proposal, according to their co-president Ska Kellers office. The Liberal ALDE group earlier was critical of a closed-door meeting with Zuckerberg. The far-left GUE group aligned itself with ALDE.
The Socialists and Democrats said they want the Facebook CEO to appear before European parliamentarians “under the same terms that he did in the U.S.,” according an adviser handling the issue — meaning the group wanted the meeting to be public.
Parliaments group leaders previously decided that a Facebook hearing would be led by the Civil Liberties Committee, flanked by committees dealing with constitutional affairs, legal affairs and industry, research and energy. The Liberal and other groups want Zuckerberg to address these committees in public.