Update on Wednesday, May 16 at 2:07 PM EST: Bloomberg reports that Zuckerberg's initial appearance before EU lawmakers will take place behind closed doors. European Parliament will schedule a separate hearing with representatives from Facebook that may not necessarily include Zuckerberg himself.
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani released a statement today confirming that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has accepted an invitation to appear before its Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).
The announcement comes after weeks of speculation and rumors that Zuckerberg would make such an appearance. In a post published yesterday, HubSpot predicted that Facebook's high volume of news releases and statements this week — compounded by a recent executive re-organization — could indicate that an international testimony from Zuckerberg was imminent.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO and founder, has accepted our invitation. He will come to the European Parliament. My full statement ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/FdmuDPl8Wb
— Antonio Tajani (@EP_President)
May 16, 2018
While an official date has not been confirmed, Tajani's statement does indicate the Committee hopes Zuckerberg will appear as soon as next week.
It is worth noting that pivotal EU data privacy laws — the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — come into force next week, on May 25.
According to Tajani's statement, the Conference of Presidents — essentially, European Parliament's governing body — will organize a hearing with both Facebook and “other parties,” with a focus on the role of the social network in European electoral policies.
The timing of the announcement is particularly interesting after Facebook's U.K. Head of Public Policy Rebecca Stimson issued a letter earlier this week to members of UK Parliament indicating that “Mr. Zuckerberg has no plans to meet with the committee or travel to the UK at the present time.”
Source: UK Parliament
That letter was written in response to an earlier one from House of Commons Culture Committee chairman Damian Collins, in which he wrote that “the committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for [Zuckerberg] to appear when he is next in the UK.”
I have today written to @facebook requesting that Mark Zuckerberg appears in front of @CommonsCMS as part of our inquiry into fake news and disinformation. Read it here: https://t.co/jXZ5TjiZld pic.twitter.com/m0NU5Uyf2L
— Damian Collins (@DamianCollins)
May 1, 2018
As for how this latest slated appearance from Zuckerberg will ultimately impact Facebook — if at all — some remain skeptical. The company posted strong Q1 2018 earnings, as well as an enthusiastic response from the audience at F8, its annual developer conference.
“Zuckerberg's U.S. testimony, and the entire situation at-large, didn’t seem to have much of a negative impact on user growth or financial data,” says HubSpot Social Media Editor Henry Franco. “I’m interested to see if this will play out in a similar fashion, or the same, especially in light of GDPR and an increased regulatory focus on how companies collect, store, and manage data.”
This is a developing story and we will provide updates as more information becomes available.