Zuckerberg to Hancock: the UK has an anti-tech government and is in the top two no-go countries

2018 meeting notes revealed by Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Anyone who watched the both:

  1. The worst televised TV cry on record today, in the form of the UK health minister Matt Hancock being interviewed by Piers Morgan, and;

  2. The film The Social Network when the founder of Facebook demolishes pretty much every negotiator put in front of him;

…will surely agree with me on *the* last politician you would want to put in front of Mark Zuckerberg. You guessed it.

In a bombshell of an investigative reveal, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has published its findings of a two-year FOI request battle, revealing the details of a private meeting between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the then UK digital secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS). The details show that Facebook’s founder said that the UK was anti-tech, anti-social media and that Facebook considered the UK as one of its top two no-go countries.

As the Bureau states in its report: “Zuckerberg spoke of an “anti-tech UK government”, joking about making the UK one of two countries he would not visit. (The second country was redacted in the notes released to the Bureau. The size of the redaction matches the length of the words “except China”.)”

Then: “The next month, Hancock had a follow-up meeting with Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s top lobbyist who later announced his resignation.”

Then: “Zuckerberg avoids open scrutiny by parliaments where he can. Instead, he seems to favour policy discussions behind closed doors.” Which makes me wonder, precisely, what went so wrong here?

This is quite a strange one, as the government here in the UK, much like other markets globally, is looking into how it regulates social media platforms such as Facebook, with heavy duty issues ranging from illegal content to disinformation campaigns affecting international politics all at play. One would think a switched-on approach would be a no-brainer. As reported in TechCrunch, Facebook’s Zuckerberg concluded by threatening to pull Facebook’s investment from the UK.

I for one will be watching this closely, at how negotiations progress between Facebook and the social networks more broadly with the UK and other economies. Perhaps the honourable gentleman Nick Clegg could get involved in some way?