Facebook’s Zuckerberg visits Brussels in EU lobbying push

BRUSSELS – Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg was expected in Brussels on Monday (Feb 17) to lobby top European officials who have become the world’s toughest enforcers on regulating big tech.

The founder of the world’s biggest social network, which also owns Instagram and Whatsapp, comes to EU headquarters just as Brussels is set to unveil a highly anticipated strategy to regulate artificial intelligence.

His visit comes on the heels of similar meetings by Google boss Sundar Pichai, who in January called on Brussels to tread carefully in regulating AI.

An EU spokesman on Monday said Zuckerberg would discuss the “digital agenda” with European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager and Commissioner Thierry Breton.

European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova meanwhile “intends to raise issues related to the protection of democracy and fundamental rights, free and fair elections, the fight against disinformation, including the transparency of political advertising,” the spokesman added.

In an editorial ahead of the visit, Zuckerberg wrote that his company now firmly backed deeper regulation for big tech, a change of heart that came after the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

“I don’t think private companies should make so many decisions alone when they touch on fundamental democratic values,” he said in the Financial Times.

In a statement in January, Facebook said Zuckerberg would “discuss a framework for new rules and regulation for the internet.” Facebook is currently fighting several probes with European data protection agencies and Brussels is looking more deeply into possible anti-trust problems on data use.

The EU’s proposal on AI on Wednesday is expected to pursue a “risk-based” approach to assessing machine learning similar to how Europe approaches food safety concerns, such as GMOs and certain chemicals.

The EU was expected to back away from a ban on facial recognition technology, instead asking companies and European authorities to think hard before deploying it.

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