Facebook's Zuckerberg gets an earful from the European Union

Lloyd Doyle
May 23, 2018

He admitted, however, that Facebook had not done enough to prevent the social network from being used for harm, and apologised.

But his testimony did not please all MEPs at the meeting, some of whom felt he had dodged their questions.

"Today's session in the EP was a missed opportunity", Collins wrote.

The group asked Zuckerberg about fake news and extremist content, accused him of "censorship" and suggested Facebook should be broken up into separate companies to increase competition. "On average we're down about 25% over the course of this year".

Also, the format in Brussels, whereby the politicians asked all their questions and his responses were left until the end, left many of his questioners unsatisfied.

A spokesman for Facebook later contacted the BBC to say it had not chosen the structure.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani told Zuckerberg that his appearance was "an important mark of respect towards the European Parliament and the European citizens that are represented here". Dominique Deckmyn of Belgian paper De Standaard tweeted: "First, they used up all their time speaking to make themselves look good, then complained loudly that Zuckerberg had no time left to answer".

Zuckerberg will go on to meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday but has so far declined to appear in front of British lawmakers. But today, many of those instances were due to close and even personal questioning of the Facebook founder - not from US lawmakers asking how Facebook makes money without charging users, or its stance on Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.

The MEPs also faced criticism. As one of the three big internet giants together with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who have enriched our world and societies, or on the other hand, the genius that created a digital monster that is destroying our democracies and our societies?

Alleged anti-conservative content bias: "We have never and will not make decisions about what content is allowed or how we do ranking on the basis of a political orientation". Verhofstadt's questions probed whether Facebook is a monopoly, comparing Facebook to a vehicle company telling people, "we don't have a monopoly, you can take a train or a plane".

Facebook executives grilled over Canadian data collection
Facebook executives grilled over Canadian data collection

"We have a big problem here and it's not gonna be solved by saying, 'we'll fix it ourselves, '" said Guy Verhofstadt, a member of European Parliament of Belgium.

A top priority for Facebook is preventing interference in elections, said Zuckerberg.

That meant he could give broad answers. Facebook has an estimated two billion users worldwide, and its Messenger and Whatsapp messaging services each have more than one billion. As he's done before, he assured the European politicians that Facebook now takes both issues seriously, but he stopped short of promising they won't arise again.

Then it was slated to be private before public outcry led to the livestreaming of the session.

However, he said that Facebook expected to be compliant with the European Union rules, called the General Data Protection Regulation, when they come into force on Friday, stressing the company's commitment to Europe where it estimates it will employ 10,000 people by the end of the year.

"The price paid by the users is, in many cases, data in exchange for free services", Tajani said.

Several of the MEPs challenged Mr Zuckerberg over whether he was truly committed to obeying the regulation.

Facebook's dominance in the tech industry also came up for scrutiny.

He added that the app had already presented European members with the revised settings required and "a large percentage" of the users had already reviewed them.

The 34-year-old billionaire, who has ignored a summons to appear before the United Kingdom parliament, attempted to allay parliamentarians' anxieties about Facebook's GDPR preparations, alleged political bias and the Cambridge Analytica data grab.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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