Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg met face to face with representatives of the European Parliament last night, where he was supposed to face a grilling on the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The hearing, which EP conservatives and the EP President had wanted initially to be held behind closed doors but after pressure from Socialist MEPs was live-streamed, was criticised for its ineffective format which allowed Mark Zuckerberg to cherry-pick the questions he wanted to answer. The meeting happened just days prior to the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force which will give people the right and the tools to control their own privacy online.
Despite the fair criticism about the format, Mark Zuckerberg’s very decision to face MEPs shows that Facebook recognises the power of EU regulators even if it was perhaps a missed opportunity to get more concrete answers on specific questions. Westminster also extended an invite to the Facebook CEO to discuss fake news which was rejected. This wasn’t the first time, as on previous occasions Mark Zuckerberg sent Facebook representatives to testify in his place.
Facebook and other social media networks have a powerful position in the process of opinion making. In order to protect our democracies, the European Union must make sure that this position is not abused. The Trump campaign and the alleged influence of Russian forces in political campaigns show how important that is. This is why we have to stop the extensive, secretive and indiscriminate data gathering and processing for algorithmic targeting. The Socialists & Democrats Group in the European Parliament, of which Labour MEPs are part, will continue to press for answers and a public hearing with Mark Zuckerberg.