Mark Zuckerberg faced scrutiny and demands for Facebook reform from European lawmakers and politicians Tuesday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. While the billionaire CEO did not satisfy his panel of questioners with appropriately informative answers, Zuckerberg apologized for his company’s lack of oversight regarding the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—which affected 87 million users—and pledged to answer their questions in writing.
According to CNN, Zuckerberg’s restrained demeanor today frustrated everyone involved attempting to garner some functional information from the man. While the question and vague answer session lasted a rather substantial 80 minutes, the last few moments were reportedly comprised of nothing but complaints that the CEO had wasted the panel’s time.
“I asked you six yes and no questions,” said Green Party politician Philippe Lamberts. “I got not a single answer.”
Of course, the format of this meeting didn’t help matters, as each person received three minutes to ask their questions consecutively, with Zuckerberg having a certain amount of time to respond at the end. When that didn’t pan out as planned, the CEO promised his company would satisfy their unanswered questions in writing “in the next few days.”
This frustrated the panel even more, and resulted in Lamberts accusing Zuckerberg of intentionally choosing the meeting’s setup strategically. “You asked for this format for a reason,” he said.
The session was largely comprised of fake news, extremist content, and alleged censorship matters on behalf of Facebook, with the some suggesting the company split into several individual companies to foster increased competition.
“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility and that was a mistake and I am sorry for it,” said Zuckerberg. He added that Facebook was devoted to doubling its security forces, which he said would “significantly impact [Facebook’s] profitability.” Presumably noticing that this money-oriented statement sounded odd, Zuckerberg added an important caveat. “Keeping people safe will always come before maximizing our profits,” he said.
In terms of economic competition and Facebook’s arguable monopoly in the social media sector, Zuckerberg countered these claims by stating that Facebook exists “in a very competitive space,” with a healthy variety of popular alternatives. “From where I sit, it feels like there are new types of media all the time,” he said.
According to Paul Bernal, senior lecturer in IT and media law at the University of East Anglia, the tone and trajectory of this entire political and social fiasco could come to a serious head for Zuckerberg. “Facebook, and Zuckerberg in particular, has been seen as uncooperative, even actively resistant towards European law and attitudes for a long time,” he said. “If the authorities decide to play hard ball, Facebook could have a big fight on its hands.”