Fake news inquisitors ‘reasonable’ to demand Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg answers data row questions - culture secretary

Matt Hancock. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Matt Hancock. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Those investigating the rise of fake news are 'reasonable' to demand that Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg appears before a UK parliamentary committee to answer questions about the ongoing data row, the culture secretary has said.

Matt Hancock, who is also West Suffolk MP, told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme it was 'entirely understandable' that a House of Commons' Department for Culture, Media and Sport select committee asked the social networking site's founder to appear in person to answer the questions.

Mr Zuckerberg has refused to travel to London to appear before MPs, despite apologising for a 'breach of trust' over the use of personal data gathered on Facebook by companies such as Cambridge Analytica.

Committee chairman Damian Collins criticised Mr Zuckerberg's decision to instead send one of his senior executives, Facebook's chief product officer Chris Cox.

Mr Hancock said of the committee: 'I do think it matters that they get to the bottom of things.

'It's entirely understandable that they want to speak to the chief executive and the founder of Facebook.

'Facebook have said they will send somebody who can answer all the questions just as well and Facebook have got to make sure that they answer those questions.

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'But I do think it's reasonable for the committee to demand that the answers come from the man at the top.'

Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower at the centre of the row, claimed Cambridge Analytica and companies associated with it had worked on pro-Brexit campaigns during the 2016 referendum.

However Mr Hancock said there was 'no evidence the referendum result any other UK electoral result has been affected'.

He said that inquiries by the Electoral Commission and the information commissioner have 'got to get to the bottom of it' but said: 'There is no evidence so far that I've seen that the result of the referendum should be in question.'

Mr Hancock added that it is important people feel they can trust technology and that democratic institutions uphold the law.

'Clearly, laws right across the piece need to be brought right up to date for the digital age but all of this is about safeguarding our democracy which ultimately underpins our way of life,' he said.

'Of course through the ages, people seeking elected office have wanted to have information and understand who is going to vote for them and why now technology just allows much more powerful techniques to do that.

'It all comes down to trust. We have to trust that when we give information about ourselves to an organisation that they're going to keep it safely and securely, to trust that our democratic institutions are robust.

'Technology doesn't work if people don't trust it to work. Getting trust right is critical. We've clearly got a big job to do to make that happen.'

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