European Parliament floats closed-door hearing with Facebooks Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should be grilled in a closed-door hearing at the European Parliament on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to a new proposal floated by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani.

Only a high-ranking manager at Facebook would take part in a public hearing with the civil liberties committee instead of Zuckerberg, Tajani proposed, according to an email seen by POLITICO.

Zuckerberg would instead meet with the Conference of Presidents, the head of the civil liberties committee and an unspecified rapporteur in private for a hearing lasting around an hour and twenty minutes, the email says.

Not all MEPs are pleased with the proposal.

Claude Moraes, chair of the civil liberties committee, who had not seen the email, said: “We want to make sure that the questioning is forensic and it is transparent.”

The Conference of Presidents previously decided that a Facebook testimony hearing would be led by Moraes committee, flanked by committees dealing with constitutional affairs, legal affairs and industry, research and energy.

“Zuckerberg must appear before the @Europarl_EN under the same conditions as he did on Capitol Hill, in a public hearing before the LIBE committee and not in one … restricted meeting behind closed doors,” President of the Liberals Guy Verhofstadt tweeted.

Talks between the European Parliament and Zuckerbergs office about the format of the hearing are ongoing.

“Were discussing with the leaders of the group,” said Tajanis spokesperson Carlo Corazza. “We want to see what will be the best format in case he comes — but at the moment Im very pessimistic.”

Last month, sources in Tajanis European Peoples Party said Facebook had confirmed, in principle, but that Parliament still had to find a suitable format for the hearing.

Tajanis office was in touch Monday with Facebooks EU affairs team. Facebook so far has not confirmed Zuckerbergs visit to Brussels and has suggested to send lower-level company executives to address the European Parliament.

Facebook did not immediately respond to POLITICOs questions.

Maïa De La Baume and Ryan Heath contributed reporting.

UPDATED: This story has been updated to clarify that Claude Moraes is critical of Tajanis suggestion for a closed-door meeting.

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