French president asks Facebook to give back to society

Currently on a Facebook apology tour after the personal data of tens of millions of people was harvested and shared with Cambridge Analytica (87 million users), CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with Emmanuel Macron today to discuss a range of issues including social responsibility.

Fresh from meeting with European lawmakers in Brussels, Zuckerberg was raked over the coals. One British MP said the social network had tried to evade responsibility for the impact it was having on society. “I put it to you today, sir, that Facebook is a morality-free zone destructive to a fundamental right of privacy. You aren’t an innocent party wronged by the likes of Cambridge Analytica. Your company is the problem.”

Cambridge Analytica harvested millions of US voters’ Facebook data using a personality quiz app to try to target them with political advertising.


The timing of Zuckerberg’s visit to Brussels coincides with Europe’s introduction next week of the world’s most aggressive rules for protecting data privacy. Under the new rules, called the General Data Protection Regulation, to be enacted in exactly two days (on May 25), EU regulators will have the power to fine companies up to 4 percent of their global revenue for violations — a sum equivalent to $1.6 billion in Facebook’s case.

Today in Paris, President Emmanuel Macron warned a gathering of global tech bosses that they cannot ride the coattails of the digital economy without giving back to society. He had invited 60 key figures from the tech world to an event at the Élysée Palace called Tech for Good. Guests included Zuckerberg and heads from Uber, Microsoft, IBM, Samsung, Intel, Palantir, John Kerry for the foundation Carnegie, Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) and many others.

Macron told them that they could not just be “free riding” without taking into account the common good. He called on them to help improve “social situations, inequalities, climate change.”

In his own words, “It is not possible just to have free-riding on one side, when you make a good business.” He then added “There is no free lunch.” He wants commitments. Like paying taxes, for example. Facebook, along with Google, Apple and Amazon use complex fiscal arrangements to declare their profits in countries with the lowest tax rates (Ireland), even when they are earned elsewhere in the EU.

Other issues discussed were data protection, fighting hate speech and the battle against fake news. The French government is preparing legislation to ban fake news online during election periods, including new rules for websites to provide more transparency about sponsored content.



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