Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg 'sorry' for 'digital monster'

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"Yes, regulation was important but not so that it might stifle individual creativity; competition wasn't an issue because, as a communications tool, there were multiple communication tools out there; "we always pay our taxes", he said, and he reminded them that Facebook is a major investor in [the European] market".

Mark Zuckerberg confronted a hostile European Parliament on Tuesday as politicians grilled the Facebook chief executive on whether his company is a monopoly that has become a threat to democracy and should be broken up.

He added, "also the fact that maybe you have less control, or no control, about your own company for the moment, because you have to apologize now - I think in total you apologized now 15 or 16 times" in the last decade.

"Facebook is a neutral political platform", he said. European representatives all asked their questions first, and then Zuckerberg responded to all of them in one go. Instead, he spoke more generally about how Facebook exists "in a very competitive space where people use a lot of different tools" to communicate, repeating his talking point about how the average person uses eight apps or services to talk to friends and family.

Zuckerberg laid out his thoughts about the future of regulation for social networks, noting that "Some sort of regulation is important and inevitable, and the important thing is to get this right".

But questions remain over how Facebook let the leak happen and whether it is doing enough to prevent a recurrence.

The president of the European parliament was criticised last night for allowing Facebook's boss Mark Zuckerberg to dodge MEPs' hard questions. He added that the company had taken the same step with data it has collected about Europeans who are not Facebook users.

Zuckerberg had agreed to meet the lawmakers to answer questions about how political consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly got hold of the personal data of 87 million Facebook users, including up to 2.7 million in the EU.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani right welcomes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg upon his arrival at the EU Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday

Commenting on allegations of political bias, Zuckerberg said Facebook was dedicated to being a platform for all ideas: "I can commit to you here today that we have never and will not make decisions about what content is allowed or how we do ranking on the basis of a political orientation".

"You asked for this format for a reason", Lamberts told Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg declined to answer specific questions on the cross-use of data from Facebook, its WhatsApp messaging service -which has more than one billion daily users - and the blocking of target ads. Zuckerberg met with the panel even as he continues to avoid invitations from a British parliamentary committee to appear and speak about the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that rocked the United Kingdom and the US.

On the need for regulation of social media, he said the question is "what is the right regulation?" European Union lawmaker Guy Verhofstadt wondered whether Zuckerberg would be remembered as a visionary alongside Bill Gates and Steve Jobs or if Facebook was on a darker path, "a digital monster destroying our democracies and our societies".

"And when we address these challenges, I know we'll look back and view helping people connect and giving more people a voice as a positive force here in Europe and around the world", he said. However, the data of all of those foreigners were "European data", according to Verhofstadt, and Facebook shouldn't have been allowed to transfer it. Verhofstadt was one of the MEPs that threatened not to attend if the hearing was restricted from public view.

Verhofstadt also suggested that Facebook should open its books so that the antitrust regulators can verify whether or not the company is a monopoly. Facebook did agree, however, to later provide further responses in written format.

The Facebook founder outlined how the company had evolved from the days in which it relied on its community members to flag content, to be reviewed later.

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