- Can a state minister and a global tech overlord meet in Paris and still be friends the morning after?
- UK government minister Matt Hancock met Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg in 2018
- The details of that meeting have just been released
- No one comes out smelling of roses
Matt Hancock is currently the UK's minister in charge of Health and Social Care. Before that, for six short months from January 2018, he was Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and, arguably, the highlight of his brief and largely anonymous tenure came when, in May of that year, he was granted an audience with Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook.
For more than two years the government refused to release the minutes of the meeting until compelled to do so under the provisions of a Freedom of Information request filed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Coincidentally (ahem), the document was published on the very same day that the government announced its intention to impose sets of individualised codes of conduct and severe penalties for non-compliance on the likes of Facebook, Google et al.
Appropriately enough, Hancock met the Sun King de nos jours in Paris, but not amidst the OTT splendour of the Palace of Versailles, where bejewelled booster seats can be provided by simply giving a curt nod to a bewigged and powdered major-domo. Instead the summit took place in utilitarian confines a side room of the VivaTech conference.
The minutes show that Zuckerberg said the UK had an "anti-tech" government and whined about the "tone" of the government's decision to introduce law to police social media sites. Apparently, he then "joked" that the UK "is the only country in the world he will not visit."
Actually the minutes show Zuckerberg named another country he would not visit but it is "redacted" (i.e. painted over with a ladleful of Royal Navy tar) in the text. However, as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism points out, the space is an exact fit for the words "and China" but Mark wouldn't like that sort of sentiment to reach the eyes and ears of the Politburo, now would he?
Zuckerberg went on to observe to the sycophantic Hancock that Britain "is the obvious territory in Europe" for Facebook to invest in, but that "the company is now considering looking elsewhere." If that's not a veiled threat, it's hard to imagine what else it might be.
So after being the subject of an incident of lèse-majesté such that the wunderkind had not experienced throughout his long and beneficent reign was Britain consigned to the stygian darkness beyond the pale. And all hapless Matt did was to say he wanted to work with the data-industrial complex to devise "innovation friendly" legislation.
This morning Facebook issued a statement saying the company "has long said we need new regulations to set high standards across the internet."
Stop sniggering at the back there!
Stay up to date with the latest industry developments: sign up to receive TelecomTV's top news and videos plus exclusive subscriber-only content direct to your inbox – including our daily news briefing and weekly wrap.