EU Parliament grills Zuckerberg – but Facebook CEO slips away without giving solid answers
In his opening remarks before leaders of the European Parliament’s political parties, Zuckerberg said it was clear that Facebook needs to do more to protect its users from those who wish to do them harm.
"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. That was a mistake, and I’m sorry," he said.
MEP Nigel Farage of the UK had questions about what he said was Facebook's throttling of right-of-center ideas, prompting Zuckerberg to promise the service won't discriminate on the basis of politics in much stronger terms than he did last month in the US Congress.
The biggest frustration of EU parliamentarians was the format of the questioning. The MEPs spent more than two-thirds of the 90-minute meeting grilling Zuckerberg on everything from terrorism to fake news to online bullying, allowing the Facebook CEO to get away with offering vague responses in the interest of time.
"I asked you six 'yes and no' questions, I got not a single answer," said MEP Philippe Lamberts of Belgium. "You asked for this format, well, for a reason."
Today's pre-cooked format was inappropriate & ensured #Zuckerberg could avoid our questions. I trust that written answers from Facebook will be forthcoming. If these are not accurately answered in detail, the EU competition authorities must be activated & legislation sharpened.— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) May 22, 2018
As the meeting wrapped up, angry MEPs began to shout out their unanswered questions – including whether Facebook would commit to separating its data from WhatsApp, and if Zuckerberg will promise to allow users to opt out of targeted advertising.
Zuckerberg declined to answer the questions – promising instead to respond to the inquiries in writing. Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, also reassured the MEPs that their questions would be properly addressed.
“Unfortunately the format of questioning allowed Mr. Zuckerberg to cherry-pick his responses and not respond to each individual point," said Damian Collins, who chairs the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the British House of Commons.
Zuckerberg’s statement of regret echoed a similar apology he made last month to US lawmakers. His visit to Brussels comes three days before tough new EU rules on data protection take effect. Companies will be subject to hefty fines for breaching them.
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