Zuckerberg could be held in contempt of Canadian Parliament after ignoring subpoena

Zuckerberg could be held in contempt of Canadian Parliament after ignoring subpoena
© Greg Nash

Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark ZuckerbergEx-Facebook data scientist to testify before British lawmakers A defense for Facebook and global free speech Senate Democrat calls on Facebook to preserve documents related to whistleblower testimony MORE could be held in contempt of Canadian Parliament if he continues to ignore requests from Canadian lawmakers to testify before their government, Canadian Conservative Member of Parliament Bob Zimmer said Tuesday. 

Canadian lawmakers voted Tuesday to issue an open-ended summons for Zuckerberg and Facebook Chief Financial Officer Sheryl Sandberg, meaning the two will face summons to appear before the Parliament the next time they step foot in Canada. If the executives fail to abide by those summons, Canadian lawmakers would vote on a motion to hold them in contempt of Parliament, Zimmer said. 


If approved, that motion could result in jail time for the powerful executives, though it is unlikely it would play out that way. 

“It’s only fitting that there’s an ongoing summons, so as soon as they step foot into our country they will be served and expected to [sit in front of] our committee,” said Zimmer, chairman of the Canadian House of Commons committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

He made the announcement after Zuckerberg and Sandberg flouted a subpoena to appear before the committee during a hearing attended by international lawmakers about privacy, misinformation and hate speech. Throughout the testy event, lawmakers expressed outrage at the executives for failing to comply with the subpoena, instead opting to send Facebook's head of public policy in Canada Kevin Chan and its director of public policy Neil Potts.

Jo Stevens, a U.K. member of parliament, said at the hearing that members of the committee had crossed oceans to make it more convenient for Zuckerberg to testify. Potts said he and Chan have been tasked with representing the company. 

The international hearing included representatives from countries including Ireland, Singapore, the United Kingdom and more. The lawmakers hit Chan and Potts with scathing and detailed criticisms of Facebook's business practices, including specific instances in which the platform was slow to take down hate speech or misinformation. 

Representatives from Google and Twitter were also in attendance and fielded questions, but the committee did not send summons to Google CEO Sundar Pichai or Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. 

"Shame on Mark Zuckerberg and shame on Sheryl Sandberg for not showing up today," Zimmer said. 

Zuckerberg and Sandberg's no-show marks the latest instance in which the top Facebook executives have declined to appear before governmental bodies. Zuckerberg previously declined to appear before the U.K. Parliament, infuriating top British lawmakers, and has repeated the tactic all over the world. 

Canadian lawmakers on Tuesday hit Zuckerberg as they quoted from a recent op-ed in which he vowed to sit down with lawmakers looking to regulate the tech giant.

Canada's privacy watchdog last month accused Facebook of violating the country's privacy laws in its handling of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Canada's Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) vowed to take the company to court over its findings.

The OPC had launched the investigation last year after it was revealed that political consulting group Cambridge Analytica had obtained data on millions of Facebook users without their knowledge.

Facebook has said it does not agree with the OPC's conclusions. 

A Facebook spokesperson after the meeting on Tuesday said, "We are grateful to the Committee for the opportunity to answer their questions today and remain committed to working with world leaders, governments, and industry experts to address these complex issues. As we emphasized, we share the Committee's desire to keep people safe and to hold companies like ours accountable.”