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.

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Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, explains the feud between Trump and Twitter and weighs in on Elon Musk's ambitious space plans:

What is happening between Trump and Twitter?

A lot. Twitter decided it had to fact check the president because the president said something that wasn't entirely true, and perhaps was false, about voting. Twitter cares a lot about lies about voting. So, they fact check Trump. Trump got really mad, said he's going to get rid of some of the laws that protect Twitter from liability when people say bad things on their platform. That started war number one.

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Trump promised a statement about China. Today's announcement was not about China. Most significant was about the World Health Organization, which is a distraction for Trump because it's weaker. They're reliant on the US, have no ability to hit back. But announcing they're pulling all funding and pulling out of the World Health Organization, the international governmental organization tasked with responding to pandemics, in the middle of a pandemic, is one of the stupidest foreign policy decisions that President Trump could make.

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The world's worst health crisis in a hundred years might not seem like the best time for the World Health Organization's biggest financial supporter to threaten to pull the plug on its operations, but that's where we are. On Friday afternoon, President Trump announced that the US is withdrawing entirely from the Organization.

The move comes ten days after the White House sent a withering four-page letter to the organization's Director General which accused the organization of ignoring early warnings about the virus' spread and bowing to Chinese efforts to downplay its severity. The letter closed with a threat to withdraw within 30 days unless the WHO shaped up to better serve "American interests." In the end, the Administration had patience only for 10 days after all.

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