Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg will meet with leaders of the European Parliament on Tuesday to answer questions about how the data of millions of Facebook users ended up in the hands of a political consultancy. "Facebook, and Zuckerberg in particular, has been seen as uncooperative, even actively resistant towards European law and attitudes for a long time", he said.
The president of the European parliament was criticised last night for allowing Facebook's boss Mark Zuckerberg to dodge MEPs' hard questions.
"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".
"I will commit to you today, we have never and will not make decisions about what content is allowed, and how we do ranking, on the basis of political orientation", Zuckerberg said.
The effort was launched by a handful of groups focusing on digital rights, privacy and other social causes.
Udo Bullman, the leader of the Socialists & Democrats group, echoed that frustration and called for another meeting to grill Zuckerberg on privacy. Belgian Philippe Lamberts said as the meeting was almost over.
The European Parliament has been left wanting more.
Instead, after a relatively brief opening statement in which Zuckerberg retread familiar ground, every single MEP (as members of the European Parliament are known) asked their question in a row, after which Zuckerberg gave a summarizing speech that lasted barely 25 minutes.
Zuckerberg's comments are part of the about-face he's done since shortly after the 2016 USA election, when he said it was a "pretty insane idea" that fake news may have swayed the election. "That was a mistake and I am sorry for it", he said.
Asked whether Facebook is ready to respect the rules, Zuckerberg said: "We do expect to be fully compliant" on Friday.
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"You asked for this format for a reason", Lamberts told Zuckerberg. "In which way will you adapt your business model to make sure that doesn't happen?"
"We didn't take a broad enough view for our responsibility".
Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data to build psychological profiles on millions of people, including 2.7 million from the EU.
Zuckerberg addressed what he called the "high level" questions raised by regulators, offering assurances that Facebook is working to combat harmful content, and avoid a repeat of the 2016 USA presidential elections, when Russian propagandists used the platform to spread misinformation. He repeated points he previously made to USA lawmakers about Facebook's plans to hire more staff and to try to develop artificial intelligence that might identify hate speech and other banned material. "Maybe you have less control or no control of your own company", he said, noting that Zuckerberg has apologized "15 or 16 times", and yet the company's problems persist. The hearing was originally planned to take place behind closed doors with a select number of MEPs. Tajani tried to set the record straight at the outset of the meeting.
"We are at the crossroads, and in a critical situation, because your business practices touch upon two basic values of our societies", Bullmann said. "We are the regulators".
The format meant Zuckerberg could choose which questions to answer, and how exactly to frame his responses.
Zuckerberg has no more public dates set to answer for Facebook's scandals, having chose to ignore the British Parliament's demand that he testify in London later this week.
But he added the tech CEO wouldn't agree to anything else.
"I'm not generally somebody who calls for legislation on the global stage, but I'm beginning to wonder if we need a social media bill of rights to protect free speech", Farage said.