Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Grilled by European Parliament

In his appearance before the European Parliament, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was peppered non-stop for 75 minutes with questions about his company’s misuse of user data, its role in elections and its outsized global dominance, which led some to call for its breakup. The meeting ended with Parliament members griping that Zuckerberg had evaded questions and repeated statements he had already made, although the format only allowed Zuckerberg a few minutes at the end to reply to the many questions.

The New York Times reports that the European Parliament’s leader of the Socialists and Democrats group Udo Bullmann complained that, “Mark Zuckerberg is getting away without responding to citizens’ concerns.”

“We need a real back and forth with all the relevant MEPs in the room,” he said.

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This meeting contrasted Zuckerberg’s two-day appearance on Capitol Hill, which was televised live and “became a media spectacle.” Zuckerberg’s much more limited appearance in Brussels was a concession to his initial resistance to meet there. The European Parliament is also “markedly weaker than Congress, and it does not have the power to regulate Facebook.”

Zuckerberg’s appearance, which was streamed online, came just ahead of the EU’s activation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a strict data privacy law. The live stream temporarily crashed “most likely because of the high interest in the meeting.”

“People are thrilled to put Zuckerberg on the grill,” said a French European Parliament member’s aid. After Zuckerberg concluded his remarks, 15 minutes past the meeting’s scheduled end, he “agreed to respond to their questions in writing.”

CNET reports that, “a coalition of advocacy groups says Facebook has too much power, and that the Federal Trade Commission needs to break up its ‘monopoly’ by spinning off Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. A petition for Freedom from Facebook, which launched on Monday, also asked the FTC to “impose strong privacy rules and allow people to communicate across social networks.”

According to David Segal, co-founder/executive director of Demand Progress, one of the campaign’s involved groups, “Facebook has far too much control over our economy, our information ecosystem, our politics, and even our emotional well-being.” “Regulators haven’t taken a meaningful stand against them — and it is about time they do,” he added.

Among its charges, the petition says that, “the platform tracks people both on the web and in the real world, and shares personal information with advertisers … unilaterally decides the news that billions of people around the world see every day and buys up or bankrupts potential competitors to protect its monopoly.”

In addition to Demand Progress, the other groups involved in the campaign include The Open Markets Institute, SumOfUs, Content Creators Coalition, Citizens Against Monopoly, Jewish Voice for Peace, MPower Change, and MoveOn Civic Action.