On Friday Justice Minister Morgan Johansson and Digital Development Minister Peter Eriksson are due to meet Google, Twitter and newspapers to discuss “measures for removing illegal content, like illegal threats and harassment from the platforms”.
Swedish tabloid Expressen reported on Thursday that Facebook had at the last minute decided not to come, which Sweden's Justice Department confirmed when asked by The Local.
“They chose not to come, that's right. It's probably best you ask them why,” Johansson's press secretary Sofie Rudh wrote in an e-mail.
Facebook's head of corporate communications for the Nordics Peter Münster told The Local he had no knowledge of the meeting being cancelled, but rather that the firm had chosen a different setting for its discussion with the Swedish government, providing a written statement from Facebook's head of public policy in Sweden.
“We never confirmed our participation. These topics are too important to not be properly addressed by people with subject matter expertise, and therefore we were grateful to instead welcome representatives from the Swedish Government at our International Headquarters in Dublin on Wednesday. In a full day of meetings, the Minister of Digitalization (sic) received detailed briefings on both our approach to hate speech, privacy controls, and Facebook's work to protect the integrity of the Facebook platform around the Swedish elections,” Christine Grahn, Public Policy Manager for Facebook Sweden, wrote.
The Swedish Government's side of the story is that the tech giant was positive about the meeting until Wednesday when it had a surprise change of heart. “I think it's pretty startling. Up until yesterday they were very much in favour of coming,” Johansson told Expressen.
Facebook is currently under the spotlight in the US in particular where CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been grilled by Congress. The questions relate to data misuse in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the personal information of up to 87 million users was harvested by the election consultancy firm without their permission.
Mark Zuckerberg testifying on Capitol Hill. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP
Sweden meanwhile has since 2017 been preparing to fend off foreign interference in the forthcoming autumn election, with the country's Civil Contingencies Agency MSB analyzing the threat of foreign influencing campaigns.