Getting off Easy

Facebook’s Zuckerberg is home free after European Parliament meeting

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Hi, I put on a tie for this. Source: Reuters

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced some hard questions in a brief session at the European Parliament, but got away with simple answers.

The hour-long hearing was taken up mostly with questions from the party leaders and committee chiefs on the panel. After all the questions had been asked, Mr. Zuckerberg hardly had any time to respond, allowing him to pick and choose the questions he answered, skipping ones he didn’t like. The members of parliament had no chance to follow up if they weren’t happy with the answer – or with having their questions ignored.

Several hard questions were about Cambridge Analytica farming personal data from 87 million users in the 2016 US presidential election. “Sorry,” said Mr. Zuckerberg, repeating his mea culpa since the scandal broke. My bad. Europe’s new data protection law? No problem, Facebook expects to be “fully compliant.”

“Sorry,” said Mr. Zuckerberg, repeating his mea culpa since the scandal broke.

Manfred Weber, the German head of center-right European People’s Party grouping, tweeted that the Facebook chief “was not very convincing.” Mr. Zuckerberg “was not able to guarantee that another Cambridge Analytica scandal will not happen again any time soon,” Mr. Weber’s post continued. “He did not promise anything more than what the European legislation on data protection already foresees. This is not enough.”

Former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt asked the tech entrepreneur if he wanted to go down in history as a genius like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or as the creator of a “digital monster” that destroyed democracy. Facebook is a virtual monopoly, Mr. Verhofstadt, continued. To claim otherwise is like an automaker who has a global monopoly on car production saying people could also take an airplane or ride a bike.

Unflustered, Mr. Zuckerberg said there is a lot of competition in the sector because users have many channels of communication. “From where I sit, it feels like there are new competitors coming up every day,” he said.

Fake news? We’re working on it. Anti-conservative bias? Perish the thought. “We have never and will not make decisions about what content is allowed or how we do ranking on the basis of a political orientation,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

Facebook’s business model? Oops, out of time.

Darrell Delamaide is a writer and editor for Handelsblatt Global in Washington, DC. To contact the author: d.delamaide@extern.handelsblatt.com.

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