Tech executive set to tell leading MEPs his company ‘didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibilities.’
Mark Zuckerberg is expected apologize to Facebook’s European users on Tuesday for the firm’s failure to stop the misuse of people’s data on the network, and for the spread of fake news during a series of elections across the Continent over the past 18 months.
His mea culpa — the latest effort by Facebook’s chief executive to apologize for anongoing scandal linked to Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm — will come as part of an hourlong meeting that Zuckerberg will hold with European politicians in Brussels.
The social networking giant has faced a growing backlash from regulators, lawmakers and the general public about how it handles people’s online information, as well as how Facebook may have been used to sway potential voters during a spate of recent elections worldwide.
Confronted with this widespread anger, particularly in Europe where people’s privacy is viewed on par with other fundamental rights like freedom of speech, Facebook’s chief executive is expected to acknowledge Tuesday that the company did not do enough to clamp down on such behavior across its global network of more than 2 billion users.
“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 is expected to say in his opening remarks in Brussels today. “That was a mistake, and I’m sorry.”
His statement to EU lawmakers comes just over a month after the Facebook chiefmade an almost identical apology to American politicians. Over hours of testimony on Capital Hill, he similarly acknowledged that the social network had not done enough to prevent its digital tools from being misused by online tricksters and foreign governments, notably Russia.
“It will take time to work through all of the changes we must make,” Zuckerberg is expected to tell EU politicians Tuesday. “But I’m committed to getting it right, and to making the significant investments needed to keep people safe.”
In April, U.S. officials were quick to admonish the 34-year-old tech mogul for his company’s role in spreading misinformation and for the misuse of people’s data. European lawmakers and regulators similarly have opened a series of investigations into Facebook’s handling of individuals’ data, threatening new legislation and potential fines against the tech giant for failing to uphold the region’s tough privacy standards.
According to Facebook’s internal figures, roughly 2.7 million Europeans were caught up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which involved a third-party app connected to the data analytics firm collecting reams of people’s Facebook data without their consent. In total, 87 million users, mostly in the United States, may have had their information harvested by the app developer.
Zuckerberg’s visit to Brussels is part of a weeklong tour of Europe, which also includes two days of events in France, whose president, Emmanuel Macron, has both wooed tech companies to come to the country and threatened new digital taxes against some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names.
Not everyone, though, welcomed Zuckerberg’s decision to meet solely EU parliamentarians as part of Facebook’s global efforts to answer questions about its data practices and role in national elections.
Damian Collins, the British lawmaker in charge of the United Kingdom’s lengthy investigation into fake news, called on the U.S. tech executive to give testimony to his country’s parliament after Zuckerberg had declined the offer. Cambridge Analytica was a British company, Collins added, and Facebook owed U.K. politicians answers over how people’s data may have been misused.
“The Facebook data breach was executed in the U.K.,” said Collins. “The U.K. parliament should be able to question Mark Zuckerberg about this and the lessons to be learned from it.”