EU’s tougher controls on Facebook a ‘troubling development’ – Zuckerberg

By Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has called an EU ruling that allows a country to order the removal of defamatory material globally as a “troubling development”.

On Thursday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided that any individual country in the EU should be able to force social networks to restrict global access to defamatory posts declared as illegal.

It came after Austrian politician Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek sought an order for Facebook to remove a comment published by another user that she deemed harmful to her reputation, after Austrian courts ruled in her favour.

Speaking in a Q&A session to employees, Mr Zuckerberg suggested that his company and other platforms would challenge Europe’s top court, saying: “I imagine we and other services will be litigating and basically try to get to clarity what this means over a long period of time.

Our internal Q&As at Facebook are one of my favorite traditions, and after the transcript of one of them was published…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, October 3, 2019

“But I wanted to register up front, because I know we all talk about free expression, giving people a voice, as a core value, that I think that was a fairly troubling development this week.

“And of course, because the ECJ is essentially Europe’s supreme court, there’s not like an appeal beyond that, that’s just the ruling, so now it’s just a question of how that will get interpreted.”

He added: “It was a ruling on content and speech which basically said that one country, in Europe presumably, can enforce its speech rules outside of the country itself, which I think is just a troubling precedent to set.”

The Facebook founder also spoke about other issues faced by the social network, during the session which was live streamed online for the first time, after a transcript from a previous event was leaked.

In a session in July, Mr Zuckerberg was heard saying he would “go to the mat” if senator Elizabeth Warren is elected US president and then pursues her ambition to break up America’s tech giants.

Mr Zuckerberg – who described the leak as “disappointing” and believes an intern may have been behind it – joked that he will “try not to antagonise” Ms Warren further, when asked about the issue.

“Maybe I said it in a bit more of an unfiltered way than I would have externally but fundamentally we believe everything we said that was in there,” he continued.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has vowed to challenge Mr Zuckerberg (John Locher/AP)

Another employee asked during the session about another presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders, on his belief that billionaires should not exist.

“I understand where he is coming from,” Mr Zuckerberg responded.

“I don’t know if I have an exact threshold on what amount of money someone should have but look, in some level, no one deserves to have that much money.”

There was also a question about Facebook’s messaging encryption plans, following news of an agreement between the UK and US on sharing data to speed up investigations into online activity by criminals.

In a letter to Mr Zuckerberg, the Home Secretary Priti Patel and her counterparts in the US and Australia outlined their fears that encryption could hinder law enforcement trying to investigate child abusers and terrorists operating online.

“These are some of the hardest decisions we have to make, trading off these equities that are really heavy and what I can commit, and the reason why we announced that we wanted to move to end-to-end encryption a year or two in advance of actually doing it, is so we could work with law enforcement and work with NCMEC (National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children) and work with a lot of other organisations around the world to make sure that we do the mitigation as best as we possibly can,” Mr Zuckerberg added.