What we learned from Mark Zuckerberg’s European parliament appearance

Facebook founder accused of dodging questions in 90-minute session

Mark Zuckerberg welcomed to European Parliament by president Antonio Tajani
(Image credit: This content is subject to copyright.)

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has apologised to a panel of MEPs in Brussels for his company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, and for the proliferation of fake news on its platform.

However, several MEPs expressed frustration and disappointment, accusing Zuckerberg of dodging a number of questions during his 90-minute meeting with the panel.

“I asked you six yes and no questions. I got not a single answer,” Green party politician Philippe Lamberts told Zuckerberg.

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CNN says the setup of the meeting “was largely to blame”, with the format leaving Zuckerberg free to pick and choose which questions he would answer.

Unlike his recent appearance before US lawmakers in April, where Zuckerberg and politicians engaged in a series of back and forth exchanges, the EU meeting followed a different format.

The BBC explains that “the leaders of the European Parliament's various political groups each asked several questions apiece”, leaving Zuckerberg to wait “until they were all delivered before responding”.

This is the preferred method of holding such meetings at the European Parliament.

Still, The Guardian says, several things did come through in the Facebook founder's testimony including the fact that Zuckerberg attempted “to make it clear that he is very, very sorry” about how his platform has been used.

“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. “That was a mistake, and I’m sorry.”

However, the session was most notable for what wasn't covered. When it concluded, Zuckerberg indicated to the panel that Facebook would provide written answers to some of its other concerns, saying: “I realise there were a lot of specific questions that I didn’t get around to answer.”

Chair of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, Damian Collins, called the meeting a “missed opportunity for proper scrutiny” of the social media platform.

“Questions were blatantly dodged on shadow profiles, sharing data between WhatsApp and Facebook, the ability to opt out of political advertising, and the true scale of data abuse on the platform,” Collins said.

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