Facebook Apology Tour: Brussels Edition

Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy apology tour landed in Brussels on Tuesday — with a thud. In a highly compressed rehash of his marathon testimony before US Congress last month, the Facebook founder apologized for not taking a “broad enough view” of the company’s responsibilities to prevent foreign election interference, privacy abuses, and the like. He deflected tougher questions about breaking up his company and then time ran out before lawmakers could press him further.


But if Zuckerberg’s anodyne and apologetic performances on both sides of the Atlantic were roughly similar, the challenges his company faces in the US and Europe are very different. US lawmakers are unlikely to do much to rein in Facebook, but in Europe, emboldened regulators are taking a hard look privacy issues and whether companies that lord over massive amounts of data have too much market power. Meanwhile, the EU’s tough new data protection rules, which take effect across the bloc on Friday, are bigger than Beyoncé. Facebook and thousands of other companies around the world will have to follow them or risk huge fines.

Zuckerberg may have frustrated EU lawmakers by dodging their barbed questions, but in contrast to the toothless US, Europe is already forcing big changes to the way Facebook does business. It may only be a matter of time before the Facebook founder is back in Brussels for an extended groveling session.

America's internet giants are being pulled into political fights right and left these days. Speech – what can be said, and who can say it – is increasingly at the center of those controversies. Consider these two stories from opposite sides of the world:

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Italy's prime minister resigns – Giuseppe Conte, the caretaker prime minister appointed to mediate an uneasy governing alliance between Italy's anti-establishment 5Star Movement and the right-wing Lega party, resigned on Tuesday. Rather than wait for a no-confidence vote triggered by the rightwing Lega Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Conte stepped down on his own terms. Salvini, who's popularity has been rising, had hoped that by triggering snap elections he could get himself appointed prime minister, will now have to wait for Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, to decide what comes next. While Lega and smaller right-wing allies want a new vote, center and left-wing parties are apparently working to see if they can form a majority coalition – perhaps including 5Star -- that would allow Mattarella to appoint a new government without fresh elections. We're watching to see how the dust settles in Europe's third-biggest economy.

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300: The US tested a new medium-range cruise missile on Sunday that flew more than 300 miles. This marks the first time the US has tested a weapon that would have violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War era pact that was officially abandoned three weeks ago, sparking fears of a new global arms race.

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