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7 Feb, 2018 18:05

US tech giants offer to come to London for fake news inquiry… but MPs prefer to fly there instead

US tech giants offer to come to London for fake news inquiry… but MPs prefer to fly there instead

Facebook, Google and Twitter all offered to travel to the UK to testify in Parliament’s inquiry into fake news. But rather than accepting the offer, MPs resolved to splash more taxpayer cash and fly to the US instead.

The online giants had reportedly offered to send their top American executives to London to face the inquiry, but according to sources familiar with the offer, the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee shunned the idea. They decided to fly 11 MPs across the pond for the one-day hearing instead, BuzzFeed reports.

The MPs in fact landed on Tuesday for a three-day trip, although it is unclear what the Commons personnel intend to do once the Thursday hearing is over.

BuzzFeed was told by a committee spokesperson that Facebook and Google executives had expressed a desire to give the testimony in the US.

Nonetheless, in what is bound to leave the public even more baffled is the fact that not only did the MPs have to travel to the US, but the executives themselves were still forced to travel across the continent, as all the tech firms are based in California.

"It's also worth noting the US executives attending are based in California," said a source familiar with the witnesses at the inquiry. "Not only is the whole delegation flying from London to New York and Washington but the executives – who had offered to come to London – are also flying across the United States to see them."

Conservative MP and inquiry chairman Damian Collins is trying to pressure the internet giants into giving evidence of ‘fake news’ on their platforms to the Commons.

He has been relentlessly trying to dig up ‘the truth’ on the alleged Russian interference in the Brexit vote and 2017 general election. The US companies, however, have repeatedly stated they have found no evidence that could substantiate Russia’s alleged attempt to influence the EU referendum outcome.

On Thursday, each tech company will be questioned for an hour as it faces the committee in a small room at George Washington University. Among them will be Google's vice president of news, Richard Gingras, YouTube's global public policy chief, Juniper Downs, Facebook's head of policy, Monika Beckert, and Twitter's US-policy chief, Carlos Monje.

READ MORE: Hypocrisy? Experts slam Tories' fake news security unit as govt 'peddles misinformation'

The trip has stirred even more controversy as it emerged that the MPs will also be invited to attend a drinks event hosted by the News Media Alliance, the lobbying group for the US newspaper industry, an obvious competitor of Facebook and Google.

David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance, dismissed claims it amounts to a conflict of interest at the hands of British MPs.

"I know 'hosted' is a word you're digging to use," Chavern told BuzzFeed News. "Let me be very clear; We are holding a reception for them. That is all."

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