Zuckerberg hails Ireland as proof of Facebook's commitment to EU

Cornelia Mascio
Mag 23, 2018

But the session with Zuckerberg, which was scheduled for 1 hour and 15 minutes, was set up so that lawmakers asked questions one after the other without a pause for answers.

"We are the regulators", European Parliament president Antonio Tajani said.

Lamenting the way the hearing was organized and the lack of solid answers, Conservative leader Sayed Kamall said, "Unfortunately the format was a get-out-of-jail-free card".

Zuckerberg had sought to avoid the spectacle of publicly testifying before European lawmakers, after almost 10 hours of grilling last month by members of Congress.

"I know that there were many specific questions that I could not answer", Zuckerberg said, after noting that the time had nearly expired. "It's good to be back in Europe!" he said enthusiastically, beginning his remarks.

"Whether it's fake news, foreign interference in elections or developers' misusing people's information, we didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibilities", Zuckerberg said at the hearing. Not enough was done to prevent the breach, he added, promising the company was now better prepared and was working on further improvements.

"What is clear at this point is that it was too flippant", he said.

Zuckerberg said that investments in security would significantly impact Facebook's profitability, but that "keeping people safe will always be more important than maximising our profits".

Verhofstadt asked whether Zuckerberg wanted to be remembered like computer legends Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, "who have enriched our world and our societies", or as "a genius who created a digital monster that is destroying our democracies and our societies".

He said: "Since January this year you've changed your modus operandi, you changed your algorithms and it has led directly to a very substantial drop in views and engagements for those that have got right-of-centre opinions".

Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg faced a barrage of questions from European Parliament leaders in a livestreamed meeting on Tuesday.

During his D.C. testimony, Zuckerberg admitted that the Silicon Valley is "an extremely left-leaning place", but that Facebook has tried to take steps to root out any political bias among his content review staff. He denied the company is a monopoly or that it suppresses speech based on political content.

The effort comes with Facebook under fire in the United States and elsewhere over the hijacking of private user data on some 87 million users, adding to concerns on how internet platforms were manipulated to spread misinformation during the 2016 USA election. 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.

The Facebook chief also said that internet regulation was "important and inevitable" but the key was to find a way to regulate without restraints on innovation. He argued that rather than suppressing competition, Facebook allows small businesses to access the same digital marketing and advertising tools once available only to large companies.

"He began answering his questions with only 20 minutes left of the session and what he did was saying "Okay, lets deal with themes, let's not deal with specifics, there isn't time". and he ran through a bunch of themes".

Several of the politicians expressed frustration at this, and one accused Mr Zuckerberg of having "asked for this format for a reason".

The hearing came as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), stringent new rules European Union regulating the collection, storage, and use of private data, go into effect at the end of the week. "It is time that Mr Zuckerberg agreed to appear in front of the DCMS Committee to provide Facebook users the answers they deserve".

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