Matt Hancock appeared to offer to “water down regulation” during a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg in which the Facebook founder said the company was considering not investing in the UK, according to a report.
Previously secret minutes from a meeting in 2018, obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, provide a summary of a conversation between Mark Zuckerberg and the then Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) secretary.
They record Mark Zuckerberg speaking “of an anti-tech UK government and said he jokes about adding the UK as the only country in the world he will not visit”.
According to the Bureau, the second country “was redacted in the notes” although, the Bureau reported, “the size of the redaction matches the length of the words ‘except China'”.
Later that year, parliament’s DCMS select committee would seize Facebook documents using an obscure parliamentary power following Mr Zuckerberg’s refusal to attend a parliamentary hearing.
The meeting minutes record Mr Zuckerberg stating that Facebook was “considering looking elsewhere” for a European territory to invest in due to the criticism the company was receiving from the committee.
In response, Mr Hancock gave the Facebook chief what was described as “a very brief lesson in the role of parliamentary select committees”, although the contents of this lesson aren’t disclosed.
He then responded to Mr Zuckerberg’s concerns about the tone of regulation in the UK by saying it could “shift from threatening regulation to encouraging collaborative working to ensure legislation is proportionate and innovation-friendly.”
The minutes conclude: “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.”
The documents were obtained following a two-year legal challenge that found the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had unlawfully withheld them under Freedom of Information laws.
A spokesperson for the social media firm told Sky News: “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 UK is our largest engineering hub outside of the US and just this year we created 1,000 new roles in the country,” they added.
DCMS has not responded to Sky News’ requests for a statement.