Facebook has been told in blunt terms that the onus is on it to conform to European internet standards and not the other way round, in a forthright exchange with industry commissioner Thierry Breton.
Lambasting the social media giant's proposed internet rules as not fit for purpose Breton declared ‘It’s not for us to adapt to this company, it’s for this company to adapt to us’, shortly after a closed-door meeting with CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The toughened regulatory stance comes as Breton seeks to flex its muscles to clip the wings of soaring US technology giants, as well as state-backed Chinese companies by drafting new rules by the end of the year under the digital services act.
These would govern the future regulation of online services and layout their responsibilities in concrete terms for the first time – something Facebook has conspicuously failed to do thus far.
Before then Breton will announce proposals as early as Wednesday designed to curtail the activities of Facebook, Google and Amazon by leveraging the EU’s mountain of industrial data. In tandem with these moves, the EU will also seek to dictate the use of artificial intelligence.
On Monday, Facebook issued a discussion paper making the case for light-touch regulation and relaxed rules of play limited to a periodic report documenting content and enforcement data which was dismissed as ‘not enough’ by Breton.
EU justice chief Vera Jourva also threw her weight against Facebook, placing the onus on it to stamp out hate speech, fake news and voter manipulation: “Facebook cannot push away all the responsibility. Facebook and Mr Zuckerberg have to answer themselves a question ‘who do they want to be’ as a company and what values they want to promote. It will not be up to governments or regulators to ensure that Facebook wants to be a force of good or bad.”
Zuckerberg has defended Facebook as a bastion of free speech but has moved slowly to address privacy concerns with new features such as a dashboard designed to empower users to take control of their online presence.