Mark Zuckerberg the CEO of Facebook met with a number of TD’s this week to discuss the regulation of the internet and the safeguarding of kids and the vulnerable from online issues. The meeting was hailed as a success and a failure in equal measure.

The company has come under scrutiny in recent weeks. In part due to the streaming of the NZ terrorist attack and a class action lawsuit taken by former employees in the US. This may be followed by a similar lawsuit in Ireland.

Zuckerberg has been meeting with regulators across the world in recent weeks and is trying to put a face to Facebook and its policies. He has recently voiced his approval of the involvement of regulators and government bodies in the issues of free speech and information across the numerous platforms under the Facebook umbrella. He wrote recently, “Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech and, frankly, I agree,” he wrote in the ‘Sunday Independent’ and ‘Washington Post’ last week. “I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t make so many important decisions about speech on our own.”

The main focus of his meeting in Ireland was to discuss regulatory issues and to discuss Facebook’s position in regards to misinformation and recent scandals which have impacted trust in the company. Of course, there was issues and positions he took which did not sit well with many, including Facebook’s position on GDPR regulations brought about by the EU.

Facebook in Ireland

While a meeting between Zuckerberg and regulatory bodies in Ireland was welcomed it will hardly affect the continuing expansion and operations of the company in Ireland. As one of the largest employers in the silicon docks and with plans for further expansion, the visit by Mr Zuckerberg could be viewed as nothing but a press trip to bolster the companies reputation.

Only in January did Facebook announce plans to lease the ground of the current AIB HQ. This expansion will coincide with a recruitment drive aiming to bring in or hire a further 1000 people bringing the companies number to just over 5000 in the Dublin region.

With such strong ties in Ireland Facebook, whille listening to the regulatory bodies will still be under the umbrella that is Zuckerberg and Facebooks.

Controversy

One area that was a hot topic was Facebook’s move of over 1.5 billion of its users away from Ireland so they would not be affected by the EU’s GDPR introduction. This is while he is now on a tour highlighting the need for more regulation.

Along with this his defensiveness and sometimes apparent aloofness to the impact of regulations on the platforms he heads, Mr Zuckerberg did not seem at odds with the regulators. As a company owner, he is free to do as he chooses, it is his sometimes contradictory approach which has caught some people off guard.

What he said about GDPR “GDPR is as important for what it doesn’t do, which is require companies to localise data and store systems data in a given country,”.

“We can take this for granted in a country like Ireland or in the US where there’s a strong rule of law and respect for human rights. But in a lot of the places around the world, those aren’t a given. What we see is that there are some competing visions for how the internet goes and what the future of that will be. We see a lot of pressure in a number of countries localising data in a way that could put people’s data more accessible to governments and in harm’s way.”

This can be taken as both a warning and a threat as he is correct in the fact that there are far less scrupulous entities who would use the information the Facebook controls.

Opinions

Adrian Weckler commented on the visit, “He also wanted to shore up morale among Irish staff, often in the firing line in successive, unending PR scandals and privacy crises”. This is most likey party due to the recent CPL scandals. Staff have voiced their disapproval at inadequate training and preparations in regards to some of the material they view online.

Overall Mr Zuckerbergs visit was seen as both a charm offensive and also a step in the right direction in regards to regulations. Progress can of course not be made without the input of one of the worlds towering tech and information figures.