Facebook Inc. (FB - Get Report) looks to have courted controversy again Tuesday after CEO Mark Zuckerberg decline an invitation to face lawmakers in the United Kingdom and explain the link between his social media giant and Cambridge Analytica that led to a data scandal which may have affected 50 million users and sway the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections.
British parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is lead by MP Damian Collins, wrote to Zuckerberg last week demanding he appear before the subset of U.K. lawmakers by March 26 and answer questions with respect to his company's connection to Cambridge Analytica, the London-based consultancy at the heart of a data mis-use scandal that has hived more than $50 billion in market value from the world's biggest social media company. Zuckerberg appeared to suggest last week during an interview with CNN that he would testify before lawmakers if he was the "right person" to do so.
"Facebook fully recognises the level of public and Parliamentary interest in these issues and support your belief that these issues must be addressed at the most senior levels of the company by those in an authoritative position to answer your questions," a statement from Facebook's U.K. Head of Public Policy, Rebecca Stimson, said. "As such Mr Zuckerberg has personally asked one of his deputies to make themselves available to give evidence to the Committee."
Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower behind the entire ordeal, appeared in front of U.K. lawmakers on Tuesday. Watch live below.
Action Alerts Plus holding Facebook shares were marked 0.98% higher in pre-market trading in New York Tuesday, indicating an opening bell price of $161.63 each, a move that would trim the stock's decline from the time the data scandal was revealed on March 9 to around 12.67%.
"We would still like to hear from Mr Zuckerberg as well," Collins replied Tuesday. "We will seek to clarify with Facebook whether he is available to give evidence or not as that wasn't clear from our correspondence and if he is available to give evidence then we will be happy to do that either in person or by video link."
Facebook is facing myriad legal and business challenges following the scandal, in which a researcher and Cambridge University is said to have sold data he collected from users in a personality test to Cambridge Analytica, with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission saying Monday that is has "an open non-public investigation" into the company's data practices.
Collins wrote to Facebook last week, accusing Facebook of "misleading" his Committee and demanding that "it is now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process ... Given your commitment at the start of the new year to 'fixing' Facebook, I hope that this representative will be you."
Facebook's public image has also taken a massive hit, with the Menlo Park, Calif.-based group taking out full-page ads in several newspapers in order to apologize -- again -- for what he has called a "breach of trust" as the Twitter hashtag #DeleteFace gains ground.
In fact, a weekend Reuters/IPSOS poll of American users of the social network suggests fewer than half -- 41% -- trust the group to follow U.S. privacy laws, a figure that falls far short of those polled for Amazon Inc. (AMZN - Get Report) , Google parent Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL - Get Report) and Microsoft Inc. (MSFT - Get Report) . All three names are held in Action Alerts Plus.
"We know this is an issue of trust. We know this is a critical moment for our company, for the service we provide," COO Sherly Sandberg told CNBC last week. "We are going to do everything we can."
"Mark (Zuckerberg) has said, 'It's not a question of if regulation, it's a question of what type,'" explained Sandberg. "We're open to regulation. We work with lawmakers all over the world."