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European regulators left an open seat to symbolize Mark Zuckerberg’s absence

European regulators left an open seat to symbolize Mark Zuckerberg’s absence

This morning, Facebook was asked to explain itself to a consortium of European regulators. Representatives from nine different countries attended the International Grand Committee’s investigation into fake news and disinformation efforts–and it asked that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg come and answer some questions.

Zuckerberg declined the invitation and instead sent a man named Richard Allen, a VP of policy solutions. The committee wasn’t thrilled, and much as when U.S. lawmakers left an empty chair for Google CEO Larry Page to highlight his absence from a Congressional hearing, it placed a vacant seat at the table along with a name placard on the table for where Zuckerberg was supposed to be.

During the meeting, regulators from Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries grilled Allen. According to the Washington Post, even the VP himself appeared slightly annoyed that he was being put in Zuck’s place. When asked about how his attendance–instead of his boss’s–looked, Allen admitted it was “not great.”

The committee asked a series of hard questions, focusing on Facebook’s efforts and overall inability to curb the myriad problems plaguing the platform. One regulator pointed out that new documents indicate that an engineer notified Facebook of a Russian IP address pulling data in 2014. Allen was unable to provide an adequate explanation.

Overall, the meeting showed how seriously the rest of the world is taking Facebook’s malfeasance; the vacant chair symbolized Facebook’s unwillingness to deal with its problems. In the past, the U.K. has threatened Zuckerberg with a summons if he failed to testify. If it required an arrest to compel Facebook’s CEO to appear, that also would be “not great.”

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