Mark Zuckerberg “threatened to withdraw” British investment in secret meeting

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Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives for testimony before the House Financial Services Committee at the Rayburn House office building on Capitol Hill October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee | Getty Images
LONDON – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg threatened to withdraw investments in the UK in a private meeting two years ago with Matt Hancock, who was then UK government secretary for digital, culture, media and sports.
The meeting report obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and described online on Tuesday summarizes the meeting that took place at the VivaTech technology conference in Paris in May 2018.

The minutes – issued after a two-year battle for freedom of information (FOI) – record Zuckerberg speaking “of an anti-tech UK government and says he’s joking about adding UK as the only country in the world that he will not visit. ”

A second country was redacted from the minutes.

In response, a spokesperson for the social media giant told CNBC: “The UK is our biggest engineering center outside the US and this year we have created 1,000 new positions in the country. . ”

The minutes describe how Zuckerberg said the UK was the “obvious territory” for Facebook to invest in Europe, but said the company was looking elsewhere because of criticism it received in Britain.

According to the minutes, Zuckerberg said he supported the UK’s decision to regulate the internet, but was “concerned about the tone.”

Hancock reportedly explained to Zuckerberg that he wanted to “use the decision to legislate as a fresh start for the UK government’s relationship with the platform,” adding that “the tone can shift from threatening regulation to ensuring that legislation is proportionate and favorable to innovation ”.

The meeting between the fifth richest person in the world and Hancock took place as Facebook was in the spotlight over the Cambridge Analytica scandal which saw data from millions of Facebook users collected for political campaigns.

In March 2018, Hancock vowed to end the ‘Wild West’ for tech companies and introduce new regulations to keep them online.

Hancock told Zuckerberg at the meeting that he wanted to work with Facebook to implement “innovation friendly” law.

The meeting with Zuckerberg was said to have taken place after several days of “bickering” by the UK Department of Culture over the principle that it would be a “positive meeting”.

The Facebook spokesperson also added: “Facebook has long said that we need new regulations to set high standards on the Internet. ”

“In fact, last year, Mark Zuckerberg called on governments to establish new rules around harmful content, confidentiality, data portability and electoral integrity. ”

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