The Transform Technology Summits start October 13th with Low-Code/No Code: Enabling Enterprise Agility. Register now!

(Reuters) — EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton said on Monday it was up to Facebook to adapt to Europe’s standards, not the other way round, and he criticized the U.S. social media giant’s proposed internet rules as insufficient.

The blunt comments came after a short meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and two days before Breton is due to present the first of a raft of rules to rein in U.S. tech giants and state-aided Chinese companies.

“It’s not for us to adapt to this company; it’s for this company to adapt to us,” Breton, a former CEO at French telecom provider Orange and French technology company Atos, told reporters after the meeting.

Zuckerberg had earlier told reporters he had a good, wide-ranging conversation with Breton.

Breton also said he would decide by the end of the year whether to adopt tough rules as part of the digital services act to regulate online platforms and set out their responsibilities.

He dismissed a discussion paper issued by Facebook on Monday that rejects what the company calls intrusive regulations and suggests looser rules whereby companies would periodicially report content and publish enforcement data.

“It’s not enough,” Breton said, adding that Facebook had omitted any mention of its market dominance and also failed to spell out its responsibilities.

Force for good or bad?

EU justice chief Vera Jourova, who also met Zuckerberg, was equally adamant about Facebook’s role in the fight against online hate speech, disinformation, and election manipulation.

“Facebook cannot push away all the responsibility. Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg have to answer themselves a question [of] who do they want to be as a company and what values they want to promote,” she said in a statement.

“It will not be up to governments or regulators to ensure that Facebook wants to be a force of good or bad.”

Breton will announce proposals on Wednesday aimed at exploiting the EU’s trove of industrial data and challenging the dominance of Facebook, Google, and Amazon. The EU will also announce rules to govern the use of artificial intelligence, which will affect companies such as Facebook.

Referring to the possibility that the EU may hold internet companies responsible for hate speech and other illegal speech published on their platforms, Facebook said in its discussion document that this ignored the nature of the internet.

Facebook urged regulators to understand the capabilities and limitations of technology in assessing content and to allow internet companies the flexibility to innovate.

Zuckerberg’s visit came on the heels of visits by Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Microsoft president Brad Smith to Brussels last month.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee.)


VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact. Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:
  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
  • networking features, and more
Become a member