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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to tell the European Parliament that he is “sorry” Facebook failed to “take a broad enough view of our responsibilities,” according to an advance preview of his remarks.
Zuckerberg is set to appear before a committee later today at 6:20 p.m. Central European time (9:20 a.m. Pacific Time in the U.S.), and the testimony will be livestreamed here. The appearance comes at the start of a three-day tour that will include a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday and an onstage interview Thursday at the VivaTech conference in Paris.
While Zuckerberg is hoping to mend fences, the terms of his appearance continue to generate controversy. The initial decision to hold the hearing in private was widely criticized, and so an agreement was eventually reached to livestream it. But in some corners, the fact that the committee at the European Parliament is made up of political party leaders rather than those specializing in digital issues is still disappointing.
Meanwhile, officials in the U.K. remain frustrated that Zuckerberg has not agreed to appear in that country before committees investigating the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Still, Zuckerberg no doubt hopes to at least make some headway in his efforts to rebuild the trust eroded over the past year as issues such as fake news, election tampering, privacy, and taxes have made the company the focus of controversy in the U.S. and Europe.
And calming some nerves in Europe is essential, given that regulators here have tended to take a far more aggressive approach to regulating tech companies than politicians in the U.S. have.
To that end, Zuckerberg is expected to acknowledge Facebook’s shortcomings.
“But it’s also become clear over the last couple of years that we haven’t done enough to prevent the tools we’ve built from being used for harm as well,” he is expected to say. “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. That was a mistake, and I’m sorry.”
By the same measure, Zuckerberg is expected to highlight Facebook’s economic impact in Europe and the company’s dedication to its global mission of connecting people.
Across Europe, Facebook will have 10,000 employees by the end of 2018. Zuckerberg is expected to highlight investments in security and the company’s willingness to take a hit on profits in order to address a wide range of concerns. He will also try to convince European regulators and politicians that Facebook has heard their concerns and is dedicated to addressing them.
According to his prepared remarks: “My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, helping them to build communities, and bringing the world closer together. I believe deeply in what we’re doing. And when we address these challenges, I know we’ll look back and view helping people connect and giving more people a voice as a positive force here in Europe and around the world.”
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