Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   16 January

MEPs frustrated over Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in European Parliament

YEREVAN, MAY 23, ARMENPRESS. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has apologised to EU lawmakers for the company's role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and for allowing fake news to proliferate on its platform, BBC reports.

Zuckerberg apologised for Facebook's tools being used "for harm".

But his testimony did not please all MEPs at the meeting, some of whom felt he had dodged their questions.

One leading UK politician later said the session at the European Parliament had been a "missed opportunity".

"Unfortunately the format of questioning allowed Mr Zuckerberg to cherry-pick his responses and not respond to each individual point," said Damian Collins, chair of the UK Parliament's Digital Culture Media and Sport Committee.

The format was very different from that of Mr Zuckerberg's testimony to US lawmakers in April.

Zuckerberg spent 22 minutes going through the huge number of questions put to him during the session and was able to pick and choose which to give answers to.

Several of the politicians expressed frustration at this, and one accused Mr Zuckerberg of having "asked for this format for a reason".

A spokesman for Facebook later contacted the BBC to say it had not chosen the structure. This was subsequently confirmed by the parliament's president, Antonio Tajani.

In a follow-up press conference, Mr Tajani added that the MEPs had been aware Mr Zuckerberg's time was limited yet had decided to use up much of the allotted period speaking themselves.

He also drew attention to the fact that the chief executive had agreed to provide follow-up written answers.

This clearly angered several MEPs, who expressed frustration over what they saw as insufficient responses to their concerns.

Earlier on April 11 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent five hours testifying to the US Senate, defending the social network from charges of aiding ‘Russian meddling’ and even revealing a few trade secrets in the process.

The marathon session involved members of the Senate Judiciary and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committees. While Democrats seemed more concerned with passing new laws to regulate social media, Republicans asked pointed questions about Facebook’s “policing” of content on the platform. Zuckerberg himself opened that can of worms when he said that Facebook’s mission to connect people was not good enough anymore and that the platform needs to “make sure those connections are positive.”

While all voices are welcomed on Facebook, Zuckerberg insisted the platform will need to make sure “they’re used for good.” This will be done by tens of thousands of staff hired to review user posts and, going forward, with artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

Zuckerberg said he expects to have AI that can “get into the linguistic nuances of hate speech” within five to 10 years. Yet he could not define what he meant by “hate speech” when asked by multiple senators.

While Facebook was aware that Cambridge Analytica had improperly gained access to some information of 87 million Facebook users in 2015 through a third-party application developer, the company decided not to inform the users affected because both the developer and Cambridge Analytica assured Facebook the data had been deleted.

“In retrospect, it was a mistake to believe them,” Zuckerberg said.

Asked if there was any overlap between Cambridge Analytica and the Internet Research Agency, said to be a “Russian troll factory” allegedly responsible for election ads, Zuckerberg hedged that “it’s entirely possible there may be a connection there.”

To the claims made by former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie that the compromised data could be stored in Russia, Zuckerberg replied, “I don’t have any specific knowledge that would suggest that.”

The Facebook CEO told Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada) that he still believes the personal data of millions of Americans is safer with Facebook than it is with the federal government, as they get to decide who sees every single thing they share on the platform.

“I don’t know of any surveillance agency in the world that operates like that,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook doesn’t actually sell any data to advertisers, he told multiple senators. Advertisers tell Facebook who they wish to reach and the social media giant does the placement of the ads itself, without the data ever changing hands. Third-party apps were restricted in accessing data from friends of friends in a 2014 revamp of privacy rules, Zuckerberg added.

Under questioning by Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), Zuckerberg admitted there was a hack of Facebook in 2013, when several employee computers were infected with malware.

“I do not believe” any user data has been affected, though, he said. Senators did not press him on this further.

English –translator/editor: Stepan Kocharyan


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