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Sunday 25 August 2019

Zuckerberg may appear before Oireachtas to answer detailed questions about Facebook's effect on society

Founder: Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Reuters/Charles Platiau/File Photo
Founder: Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Reuters/Charles Platiau/File Photo
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Mark Zuckerberg says he may appear before the Irish Oireachtas in front of a cross-parliamentary committee to answer detailed questions about fake news and the Facebook’s effect on society.

The social media boss told TDs in a formal meeting today that he is open to the engagement, scheduled for November.

The Facebook chief executive also told TDs that his company will not drop its appeal to the UK information commissioner’s £500,000 (€584,000) fine over the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, telling the politicians that it wasn’t their fault.

And Mr Zuckerberg defended reclassifying 1.5bn Facebook users as non-EU data subjects on the eve of the GDPR data privacy law, saying that it was done for ‘practical’ reasons.

His remarks come after having an op-ed jointly published in the Sunday Independent and Washington Post, setting out ideas for how harmful content, political misinformation and privacy might be dealt with.

In the piece, he said that Facebook may now have too much power of online speech. He called on national legislators and regulators to pass more specific laws on what defines harmful content and illicit political content.

He also argued that apps should be required to transfer data to rival apps by law.

Last week, Facebook announced that it would require a new ‘paid for by’ sticker on ads placed on Facebook for the upcoming European Parliamentary elections. The company is introducing the transparency move having repeatedly come under fire over disinformation that is seeded on the platform.

In Dublin today, Mr Zuckerberg was meeting parliamentary TDs Eamon Ryan, James Lawless and Hildegarde Naughton in Dublin as part of an outreach exercise with an international ‘Grand Committee’, made up of politicians from the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and Argentina.

The Facebook boss also toured the company’s facilities in Dublin, which currently employs over 4,000 people and is set to add another 1,000 this year.

Mr Zuckerberg also met with journalists but restricted his answers to pre-prepared remarks.

However, he again warned about Apple’s “competing vision” for the internet, making a thinly-veiled reference to the iPhone company when referring to data “stored” in countries like China.

“GDPR is as important for what it doesn't do, which is require companies to localise data and store systems data in a given country,” he said, referring to Apple’s compromise with Chinese authorities, where it stores data in servers located in that country. Facebook and Google are not allowed to operate in China.

“We can take this for granted in a country like Ireland or in the US where there's a strong rule of law and respect for human rights. But in a lot of the places around the world, those aren't a given. What we see is that there are some competing visions for how the internet goes and what the future of that will be. We see a lot of pressure in a number of countries localising data in a way that that could put people's data more accessible to governments and in harm's way.

“So I think that it's almost inevitable at this point, that every country is going to want some kind of comprehensive privacy legislation. And having us, as quickly as possible, move towards having as many countries as possible adopt something like the GDPR framework, as opposed to the alternative visions for the internet, is going to be really important for securing the data privacy future that we want and for people’s safety.”

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