Mark Zuckerberg reportedly threatened to pull Facebook’s investment from the UK in a meeting with Matt Hancock amid a regulation row.
Secret minutes from a meeting in 2018, obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, reveal Hancock, who was the Culture Secretary at the time, offered a “new beginning” for the government’s relationship with the social media giant.
The meeting took place at the VivaTech conference in Paris in May 2018, just days after Hancock lashed out at Zuckerberg for dodging a meeting with MPs.
The meeting minutes record the Facebook boss lamenting the “anti-tech UK government” and joked about adding the UK to one of two countries he would not visit.
The Bureau notes the second country was redacted in the notes but “the size of the redaction matches the length of the words ‘except China’”.
Later that year the DCMS Committee seized internal Facebook documents using a rarely-used parliamentary power as MPs probed the Cambridge Analytica fallout.
Zuckerberg was recorded as saying that the social media giant was “considering looking elsewhere” to invest in Europe after the fallout with Parliament.
Hancock offered to change the government’s approach from “threatening regulation to encourage collaborative working”. He was due to visit the Silicon Valley behemoth in September 2018 but Hancock had become health secretary before the visit.
The minutes concluded: “If there really is a widespread perception in the valley that the UK Government is anti-tech then shifting the tone is vital. London Tech Week is a great opportunity, and couldn’t have arrived at a better time.”
A spokesperson for the social media company 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 revelations come as the competition regulator set out a new pro-competition regime for tech giants, including Facebook.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) today announced companies with “strategic market status” will be legally bound by a code of conduct which will govern how they do business.