Mark Zuckerberg apologised for Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal in a hearing with the European Parliament which was described as a “missed opportunity” for politicians.
The 34-year-old entrepreneur was in the session, which was livestreamed on Facebook Live, for little more than 30 minutes and spent 10 of those delivering an opening address.
He used it to apologise to the assembled MEPs for the company’s role in the data-sharing scandal and for allowing fake news to spread on its platform.
The format allowed for each politician to ask one question, with one potential follow-up, but all the questions were delivered in one go – and lasted for 10 minutes.
That left little more than 10 scheduled minutes for Zuckerberg to answer them. He did so for double that length of time, but was able to choose which questions to answer.
However he promised to provide written answers to all questions.
Damian Collins, chair of the UK Parliament’s Digital Culture Media and Sport Committee, described the sessions as a “missed opportunity”, adding: “Unfortunately the format of questioning allowed Mr Zuckerberg to cherry-pick his responses and not respond to each individual point.”
British Conservative Syed Kamall said it was a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for Zuckerberg and said regulators were trying to “cure a disease without knowing what the illness is”.
A US Congressional hearing last month allowed politicians to cross-examine Zuckerberg for 10 hours.
The European Parliament’s president Antonio Tajani said Facebook had not chosen the structure of the European hearing and seemed to criticise MEPs for taking up so much time with their questions.
Zuckerberg did not answer a question from Guy Verhofstadt, who asked him if he wanted to be remembered as “the genius who created a digital monster”.
He also failed to address questions about opt-outs from targeted advertising, whether Facebook was a monopoly, Facebook’s collection of data on non-users and the sharing of data between Facebook and its messaging service WhatsApp.
UK politician Nigel Farage asked whether the social network “wilfully discriminated” against right-of-centre commentators and received this response: “We’ve never made a decision about what content was allowed on the basis of political orientation.”
Zuckerberg said that he expects Facebook to be fully GDPR-compliant by Friday, when the new EU data regulation comes in.