Facebook will not appear at a Senate inquiry into foreign interference through social media on Friday despite having previously confirmed it would front up. The tech giant says it is a “scheduling issue” and has asked to instead give evidence after the upcoming US presidential election.

The Australian Senate is currently conducting an inquiry into foreign interference through social media and has urged representatives from major platforms to give evidence in person. So far the American tech giants have provided written submissions and executives from TikTok are scheduled to appear on Friday.

The chair of the inquiry, Labor Senator Jenny McAllister, said she was disappointed to hear from Facebook on Tuesday that it would not make senior staff available for questioning on Friday.

“Facebook’s platform has been used by malicious actors to run sophisticated disinformation campaigns in elections around the globe,” Senator McAllister said.

“Eighty-four per cent of Australians are on Facebook. We use it to connect with other people and debate ideas that are important to our community.

“The Australian public deserve to know how Facebook manages the risks their platform presents to our democracy and public discourse.”

A Facebook spokesperson told Which-50 it remains committed to the inquiry and had recently lodged its written submission.

“We are committed to cooperating with the Senate Committee on this inquiry and answering the questions they may have. Due to a scheduling issue we’ve requested to appear at a later day,” a Facebook company spokesperson said.

The senate inquiry, established in December, is examining the use of social media that could undermine “Australia’s democracy and values, including the spread of misinformation” as well as ways to mitigate risk, international responses, compliance with Australian laws, and “any related matters”.

So far Twitter, Google, Facebook and TikTok have all provided written submission, largely outlining the steps the platforms take to identify, suppress and remove misinformation.

Earlier this month Facebook told a House of Representatives Committee that it removed around 1.5 billion fake accounts from its platform during the quarter of the 2019 Australian Federal Election.

The social media giant, which allows advertisers to target users at granular detail, insists it should not be treated differently from any other media property in regards to political advertising rules.

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