Zuckerberg allowed to cherry pick MEPs' questions with "no real scrutiny"


Zuckerberg already faced two days of questioning by lawmakers in the USA, and Tuesday it was the Europeans' turn to get answers on everything from Facebook's readiness for new data laws, known as GDPR, to how the platform combats fake news.

The president of the European parliament was criticised last night for allowing Facebook's boss Mark Zuckerberg to dodge MEPs' hard questions.

Unlike his testimony in the US, where members of Congress took turns questioning Zuckerberg and hearing his answers, the European politicians all spoke first and then Zuckerberg addressed their questions in one long statement at the end. "The important thing is to get this right", said Zuckerberg.

Cambridge Analytica scandal: Facebook came under increased scrutiny after it was revealed that the personal data of 87 million Facebook users wound up in the hands of British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked for US President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

In his responses, Zuckerberg mentioned that new Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools will allow Facebook to be more proactive in addressing concerns, while also acknowledging that those looking to spread harmful content online will be working to develop this technology as well.

The 34-year-old billionaire's performance clearly frustrated the lawmakers, one of whom remarked that Zuckerberg "asked for this format for a reason".

"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.

Zuckerberg didn't rise to the bait, but instead pointed out that the company faces stiff competition. That's positive, since blunt regulation could create a moat for Facebook.

"You have to remember that you're here in the European Union where we created GDPR", said Claude Moraes, chairman of the civil liberties committee that led the drafting of the bill. I think the question is what is the right regulation ...

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European Parliament President Antonio Tajani grills Zuckerberg during the hearing.

"He's not obliged to come".

"The format of the meeting was a farce", he said. "This wasn't a mandatory hearing".

Just over a month after giving an apology for his company's recent mistakes during two gruelling days of USA congressional hearings, Zuckerberg had rather less time to respond to members of the EU lawmakers who demanded answers - and contrition - after 2.7 million European Facebook users were compromised by political data firm Cambridge Analytica.

"From where I sit it feels like there are new competitors every day", Zuckerberg later replied, "and we're constantly needing to evolve our service to stay relevant and serve people well".

"Mr. Zuckerberg's apologies are not enough", Tajani said at a later news conference.

Apologizing for data leaks: "We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibilities". "That was a mistake and I am sorry for it", he said. The questions of European lawmakers were, in terms of specificity and sophistication, lightyears ahead of most of their American counterparts.

Initially, Zuckerberg would speak only behind closed doors, prompting a wave of protest from MEPs who argued that the event should be public. But that plan was torn up following fierce criticism by EU officials such as EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, who is in charge of overseeing the new legislation, which gives regulators the power to levy massive fines for violating tougher privacy principles. "Facebook, and Zuckerberg in particular, has been seen as uncooperative, even actively resistant towards European law and attitudes for a long time", he said. 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.