Mark Zuckerberg shuns MPs: Astonishing or inevitable? It's certainly damaging

The Facebook boss and founder has missed an opportunity to take control of the narrative and restore some of the trust Facebook has lost 

James Moore
Chief Business Commentator
Tuesday 27 March 2018 16:57 BST
Facebook finds itself with questions to answer
Facebook finds itself with questions to answer (Reuters)

Damian Collins, the Tory chairman of the Culture Media & Sport committee, described Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to appear before MPs in what is one of the company’s major markets as “astonishing”.

It isn’t really, though, is it? That the Facebook boss has decided to hide away in his Silicon Valley campus, shunning an appearance before an inquiry into fake news even by video link, is about as surprising as finding that bread starts to burn if you leave it under the grill for too long.

Gutless, misguided and very, very short sighted? They are what it is, and more besides.

As was recently pointed out to me by a tech exec, Facebook must have been aware that the scandal over the harvesting of users' data and its alleged use by data firm Cambridge Analytica was going to blow up long before it did.

That being the case, the fact that Mr Zuckerberg and his company have looked so much like rabbits caught in the headlines reflects incredibly poorly on them.

It is frankly staggering that the business could have shown such a lack of preparedness and produced such a leaden footed response to the scandal.

Multiple brush fires were burning when the Facebook founder finally posted to his followers on Facebook about the affair, before appearing on CNN, and the flames have only gotten higher since then.

Had he agreed to appear before Mr Collins and co it would have been a circus and there would doubtless have been a lot of grandstanding.

But it would still have afforded Mr Zuckerberg an opportunity to provide his customers with his version of events and a chance to change the narrative.

​He would have been able to look into the camera’s eye and tell people that their digital pal was sorry, and was prepared to take some licks to prove it.

See, I care. I do. Look at how contrite and respectful I am. Now how about you give me a like and go back to posting cute pictures of kittens before clicking on our advertisers’ links?

That’s what’s called damage limitation in PR 101 and it could have proved remarkably effective.

By contrast, his deputy, whichever one it is that finally appears, has much to lose and little to gain. They will take a kicking while spending much of their time answering for their boss’s non appearance. The company will derive very little benefit from their appearance because no one will be interested in what they have to say about the affair.

Facebook is Zuckerberg and Zuckerberg is Facebook and both appear set on making a bad situation worse rather than taking the steps necessary to restore the trust in the company that has been lost, perhaps now for good.

You know what, Mr Collins was right. That is “astonishing".

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