Zuckerberg ‘sorry’ for ‘mistakes’
FACEBOOK chief Mark Zuckerberg apologised to the European Parliament and said the social media giant was taking steps to prevent a repeat of a massive breach of users' personal data.
Mr Zuckerberg told the livestreamed hearing in Brussels that it had become clear in the past two years that Facebook executives "haven't done enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm".
"And that goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections or developers misusing people's information. We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility," he said.
"That was a mistake, and I'm sorry for it."
Mr Zuckerberg faced round after round of scathing criticism and fiery questions overnight, as European lawmakers discussed whether to break up the social media giant's "monopoly" or force it to compensate users for their personal data.
They also looked at whether they could stop organisations tracking non-Facebook users and probed how the company planned to shut down bullying that had led to teenage suicides.
In a particularly pointed question, a Belgian representative even questioned Mr Zuckerberg's legacy, asking whether he wanted to be remembered "as one of the three big internet giants together with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates" or as "the genius who created a digital monster that is destroying our democracies and our societies".
But the 90-minute meeting ultimately ended in frustration for many of the parliamentarians as an unusual format allowed Facebook's founder to ignore many questions, and repeat answers already delivered during his appearance before US Congress.
The European representatives asked questions about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a political data firm was able to buy the details of as many as 87 million Facebook users to influence elections.
They questioned whether Facebook was a monopoly in need of greater regulation, and whether it was complying with new consumer privacy laws that will come into force on May 25.
Mr Zuckerberg admitted more Facebook apps could possess huge databases of users' personal information, and it would take some time to identify them.
He said the company had already discovered "more than 200" apps that appeared suspicious.
"I do anticipate that there are going to be other apps that we find that we're going to want to take down," he said.
"There are many thousand more that we need to investigate. This is going to take many months."
The public meeting, held in Brussels after 2am AEST in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, saw European parliamentarians ask their questions in three-minute bursts before Mr Zuckerberg answered inquiries at the end of the session.
But, citing time constraints, the billionaire answered some questions by theme only, and failed to respond others, prompting angry outbursts from three parliamentarians as the session ended.
"I asked you six yes-and-no questions. I got not a single answer," one commented. "Of course, you asked for this format for a reason."
Mr Zuckerberg said Facebook was bringing in new features including a special "clear history" button that would allow them to delete any cookies or browsing history details it stores.
He also told European leaders that Facebook would make fresh investments to protect its users in the wake of the scandal.
"It's going to take time to work through all of the changes we must make. But I'm committed to getting it right," he added.
"Keeping people safe will always be more important than maximising our profits."
Facebook also serves a valuable social role in alerting fellows users to loved ones' safety, Mr Zuckerberg said.
He said tens of thousands of people used its Safety Check feature "after the recent terrorist attacks in Berlin, Paris, London and here in Brussels".
Mr Zuckerberg denied Facebook was a social media monopoly though reiterated he considered regulation "inevitable".
Mr Zuckerberg met with the European representatives despite denying an earlier request to submit to questioning by British authorities, who threatened to issue a formal summons for his appearance.
The UK Digital Culture, Media, and Sports Committee chairman Damian Collins called today's European probe "a missed opportunity for proper scrutiny," and criticised Mr Zuckerberg for ignoring important issues.
"Questions were blatantly dodged on shadow profiles, sharing data between WhatsApp and Facebook, the ability to opt out of political advertising, and the true scale of data abuse on the platform," he said.