Friday 18 January 2019

Adrian Weckler: 'Zuckerberg's company may find it has fewer Government friends than Apple'

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: AFP/Getty
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: AFP/Getty
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

If the EU opens a tax probe into Facebook, will Ireland go to bat for the company in the same way it has for Apple?

Coincidentally, the social media giant unveiled ambitious new plans yesterday to employ thousands more people in Dublin at its new campus, the former AIB headquarters site.

Traditionally, the Government has robustly defended the country's largest strategic employers. It is currently appealing the European Commission's €13bn back tax bill handed to Apple, even though the money would go to the taxpayer. It does this for what it believes is a larger, more long-term industrial goal.

In essence, this is no different to what the UK does for big banks or Germany for the car industry. But will Ireland step up for Facebook?

While the Government will want to defend its own tax practices, there are some signs it may take a less enthusiastic approach to Facebook than it did to Apple - because many in Government don't like the company.

Earlier this week, the Government's Communications Committee chairperson, Hildegarde Naughton, co-signed a letter slamming Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg for its "disinformation and fake news" and demanding he appear before the British Houses of Parliament to answer questions.

The letter, co-signed by Ms Naughton's counterparts in the UK, Canada, Australia and Argentina, said Mr Zuckerberg should "do the right thing" by turning up to Westminster.

Ms Naughton's hostility to Facebook is not unrepresentative. It is shared fairly widely across politics and large chunks of the media.

Will that creeping dislike leak through to industrial policy in a tax case?

We may soon see.

Irish Independent

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