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By Valentina Pop
BRUSSELS -- Mark Zuckerberg called on the European Union's top regulator to create customized legislation for online platforms, with the Facebook chief executive accepting some responsibility for the content shared by users. But not all EU officials were impressed.
"When it comes to developing these kinds of regulations, we believe that what is best for Europe will be best for Facebook and the internet ecosystem over time," he told reporters on Monday.
In meetings here with members of the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm in charge of drafting legislation, Mr. Zuckerberg made the case for online platforms to be regulated somewhere between newspapers, which shoulder full liability for the content they publish, and telecommunications operators, which hold no responsibility for the messages they relay.
Mr. Zuckerberg said regulators should consider requiring internet platforms to report more frequently about the content that they detect and take down due to concerns about terrorism, graphic violence, hate speech or child exploitation.
"We currently issue transparency reports every six months. I'd like to take it down to every three months," he told a group of journalists, adding that transparency reports should be paired with quarterly financial reporting. "These issues are as important as the financial reporting that we do."
Some countries in Europe, notably France and the U.K., are considering rules requiring platforms to take down hateful content within tight time frames. Facebook disagrees with this approach. In a white paper published Monday, the company said that a 24-hour deadline "would create still more perverse incentives," as companies would focus on the deadline irrespective of how many people watch the content, whereas priority should be given to content that goes viral.
Facebook's white paper came just two days before the EU is expected to release its own white paper on coming regulation governing artificial intelligence and amid efforts to get companies to share more data in Europe. The commission is also in the process of considering stricter liability rules for online platforms, with a Digital Services Act expected to be put forward by the end of 2020.
Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner for internal markets, who met with Mr. Zuckerberg on Monday, told reporters afterward that the Facebook white paper "is too low in terms of responsibility. There are interesting things, but it's not enough."
He said the commission will decide by the end of the year what kind of liability to impose on online platforms. "I told him the comparison with telecoms is not relevant. A message [on Facebook] reaches hundreds of millions. On telcos you have one-on-one communications," said Mr. Breton, who previously ran France Télécom, currently known as Orange. "He understood our agenda and the need to move forward," he said.
"We also discussed their market-dominant position today and what could be their ideas to avoid this," Mr. Breton said, in reference to growing calls on both sides of the Atlantic to break up Facebook and other tech giants. He criticized Facebook for not mentioning its market dominance in its white paper.
Mr. Zuckerberg warned against regulation that would prevent small enterprises from using Facebook's data-analysis services for advertising, allowing them to do the type of marketing that only big companies used to have resources for. He said 25 million small businesses in Europe that support three million jobs use those tools.
"A lot of where we see our role is in leveling the playing field," he said.
He repeated his comments from over the weekend at the Munich Security Conference, where he warned that China is spreading a regulatory model that embeds authoritarianism, and that it was up to the U.S. and Europe to get ahead and make their mark in the regulatory race.
Mr. Zuckerberg's lobbying efforts in Brussels come after Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google parent Alphabet Inc. and other senior Facebook figures have come to the EU capital to advocate regulation that is minimally intrusive on big tech companies.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 17, 2020 13:05 ET (18:05 GMT)
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