‘Digital Monster’ Facebook threatened with tighter EU regulations during Parliamentary hearings

Mark Zuckerberg could be forced to reveal Facebook’s secret algorithm as European Parliamentarians attempt to tame what one described as a “digital monster’.

In a meeting with European lawmakers to discuss Facebook’s recent privacy scandals, Zuckerberg once again apologised for not doing enough to tackle users’ privacy protections and the spread of fake news.

Mark Zuckerberg speaks before the European Parliament

“It’s clear in the last couple of years that we have not done enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well,” Zuckerberg said. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibilities and that was a mistake. We are sorry for it.”

The EU legislators were less than impressed with Zuckerberg’s apology days before Europe’s GDPR privacy regulations come into force on Friday.

“I think in total you apologized now 15 or 16 times in the last decade,” said Belgium MEP Guy Verhofstadt. “Are you capable to fix it?”. You started in 2003 and every year you have one or other wrongdoing or problem with Facebook and you have to face the reality and to say sorry and to say you’re going to fix it.”

Zuckerberg’s appearance also comes as the European Parliament considers a tax on the multinational digital platforms which could form the basis for similar levies in Australia.

Manfred Weber, the head of the European People’s Party, warned more legislation could be on the horizon for Facebook, including having to give away their algorithm: “Your company already has already today tremendous power,” he said.

“You have an algorithm behind and its rules are incomprehensible. Nobody knows about them. You should discuss laws that force you to make these algorithms public in future.”

Belgian Greens MEP Philippe Lamberts asked for Zuckerberg’s thoughts on allowing users to drop out of targeted advertising, saying: “As a user I may be interested in this.”

Unfortunately for the European MPs, the session was wound up after 90 minutes, in contrast to the ten hours he spent before the US Congress, with Zuckerberg not giving answers to most of the questions.

When asked a similar question at the US sessions, Zuckerberg did not rule out a paid version of Facebook in the future.

Verhostadt concluded with a cutting question to Zuckerberg: “You have to ask yourself how you will be remembered – as one of the three big internet giants together with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who have enriched our world and our societies? Or on the other hand a genius that created a digital monster.”


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