Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg had threatened to stop investing in the “anti-tech” United Kingdom amid a row over regulation with a senior government politician, according to the minutes of a historic meeting that have just been published.
Zuckerberg said U.K. politicians were “anti-tech” at a summit that had taken place in Paris and warned that Facebook might stop investing in the U.K. if it continued to tighten regulation on social-media companies.
The comments were noted in the minutes of a meeting between the Facebook boss and Matt Hancock, who was then digital, culture, media and sport secretary and is now secretary for health and social care.
It took place in 2018, and details have only just been published, following a freedom-of-information request by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
At the time, many politicians were concerned about the rise of fake news and what measures social-media companies were taking to tackle the issue. Zuckerberg had been invited to appear before U.K. politicians three times but sent underlings.
A meeting between Hancock and Zuckerberg was brokered after what was described as days of “wrangling,” with Facebook insisting on assurances the meeting would be constructive.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism said the notes represented the first public airing of Zuckerberg’s views regarding the U.K.’s proposed legislation on internet safety and regulation. It reported the minutes showed Zuckerberg spoke of an “anti-tech U.K. government,” and made a joke that the U.K. was a country he would not visit, along with one other that wasn’t named.
The nonprofit bureau guessed this could have been China, because “the size of the redaction matches the length of the words ‘except China.’ “
The meeting notes concluded: “If there really is a widespread perception in [Silicon Valley] that the U.K. Government is anti-tech then shifting the tone is vital.”
A Facebook FB, -0.69% company representative said: “Facebook has long said we need new regulations to set high standards across the internet. In fact last year Mark Zuckerberg called on governments to establish new rules around harmful content, privacy, data portability, and election integrity. The U.K. is our largest engineering hub outside of the U.S. and just this year we created 1,000 new roles in the country.”