Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Andrew Harnik

Tech giants called to testify in Ottawa in international probe of fake news

Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook are invited to attend

Executives from some of the world’s largest digital and social media firms have been invited to appear before an international committee on disinformation and “fake news” when it meets in Ottawa this May.

The “grand committee” of elected politicians from nine countries, including the U.K. and Canada, has already been stymied in its efforts to hear from some of them at earlier meetings in London.

Invitations for a meeting scheduled for May 28 in Ottawa have been sent to Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, as well as executives from WhatsApp and Snapchat, among others.

Zuckerberg declined several requests to appear at the first meeting of the committee in November, sending a Facebook vice-president instead.

This time, alternates will not be permitted, says Canadian Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, who chairs the House of Commons ethics committee, citing “inadequate” answers to questions at the November meeting.

“I am hopeful that these executives will take advantage of this unique opportunity to speak to representatives from around the globe about what their platforms are doing to ensure the privacy of our citizens,” Zimmer said in a news release.

READ MORE: Not much Elections Canada can do about fake news spread about candidates

“I am also looking forward to hearing from them about what is being done to stop the spread of disinformation and how they are protecting users from the threats of manipulation online.”

The meeting of the committee comes amid warnings from the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security that foreign actors are likely to try to manipulate Canadian opinion with malicious online activity during this election year.

Considerable evidence has pointed to online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The international panel was struck as part of a British committee’s probe that began in 2017 into the influence of false information online. That probe became heightened in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data controversy, which involved the alleged unauthorized use of some 87 million Facebook profiles globally — including those of more than 600,000 Canadians.

In its final report, published earlier this week, the U.K. Parliamentary committee called for an independent regulator to be created to police social media sites, singling out Facebook in particular for breaching privacy and competition laws.

“Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law,” the report said. It also included some harsh criticism aimed at Zuckerberg, accusing him of contempt of U.K. Parliament and of the international grand committee for refusing to appear.

The Trudeau government has announced measures to counter possible election interference in Canada, including a panel of high level bureaucrats that will alert the public if they flag any concerns about online activities that could be seen as election meddling once the federal election campaign officially begins later this year.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

WATCH: Sparks fly as two people speak out during Oct. 12 North Matters event in Smithers

The First-Nations led pro-LNG community celebration took place Oct. 12 at Bovill Square

Judge reserves sentencing until Dec. 9 in Giesbrecht trial

Crown asks for 12-15 years of parole ineligibility

Advance voting in 2019 federal election begins

Voting at advance polling stations has become a popular choice in Canada over the years

‘The end of an era’: Town thanks Director of Finance Leslie Ford for 20 years of service

Ford first came onto the Town’s staff in 1999 as a Financial Administrator.

Vandals tag Telkwa

Several places in the Village were sprayed with graffiti over the weekend.

VIDEO: Langley woman’s security camera records its own theft

Langley family discovers early morning grab was recorded

Share crash data, private insurers tell David Eby, ICBC

B.C. monopoly makes drivers retrieve their own records

B.C. VIEWS: Wolf kill, not backcountry bans, saving caribou

B.C.’s largest herds turn the corner from extinction

Pearson nets shootout winner as Canucks clip Flyers 3-2

Vancouver picks up second straight home win

Map on Elections Canada website sends Nanaimo-Ladysmith voters to landfill

Address for polling station correct, but Google Map address differs

BC Children’s Hospital launches 2 new virtual care sites bringing total to 19 across province

Provincial initiative allows pediatric patients to see health specialists through video

‘Wham-bam out the door’: Surrey man’s front yard left ruined by scamming landscaper

Resident warns neighbours to be careful of door-to-door salesmen

PHOTOS: Kipchoge becomes first runner to dip under 2 hours for marathon

Olympic champion and world record holder from Kenya clocks 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds

Most Read