Zuckerberg smiles as Macron woos after European Parliament farce

Friend request: Zuckerberg smiles as Macron woos him a day after EU politicians were criticised for grandstanding and failing to get answers from the Facebook chief

  • French president is keen for his country to become a ‘startup nation’ 
  • Zuckerberg on trip to Europe to bolster Facebook’s image after data breach
  • Appearance at European Parliament widely criticised for letting him off hook
  • MEPs asked long winded questions and Zuckerberg allowed to dictate format 

Mark Zuckerberg met Emmanuel Macron as part of his efforts to restore Facebook’s reputation in the wake of revelations about breaches of users’ data and anger at its tax policy.

The French President welcomed the Facebook CEO to the Elysee Palace with a warm smile for a summit along with the bosses of other technology giants.

Macron’s guest-list included included IBM’s Virginia Rometty, Intel Corp’s Brian Krzanich, Microsoft Corp’s Satya Nadella and a raft of other big hitters in the tech world.

French President Emmanuel Macron with Mark Zuckerberg and IMB’s President and CEO Virginia Rometty on his left

Zuckerberg appeared relaxed after what promised to be tough questioning in the European Parliament descended into farce 

French President Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda

Zuckerberg’s appearance alongside Macron comes after what was meant to be tough questioning by the European Parliament descended into farce yesterday when MEPs asked long winded questions in a format chosen by the Facebook boss. 

At the European Parliament, MEPs asked their often long winded questions all at once and Zuckerberg was allowed respond to them at the end.

One MEP, Gabi Zimmer, began her question with a quote from the German philosopher Goethe. 

This meant by an hour into the 90-minute hearing in Brussels on Tuesday they were still asking and he was yet to answer a single question.

The French leader paints himself as a champion of France’s plugged-in youth and wants to transform France into a ‘startup nation’ that draws higher investments into technology and artificial intelligence.

He is also spearheading efforts in Europe to have digital companies pay more tax at source. 

Mr Tajani (left) cut indignant MEPs off and said Mr Zuckerberg was free to leave as the session was over and their time was up 

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg reacts as he leaves after the ‘Tech for Good’ Summit at the Elysee Palace

Zuckerberg speaks with Cofounder of Viva Technology Maurice Levy

Emmanuel Macron poses for a family picture as he hosts the summit over lunch with tech companies at the Elysee Palace in Paris

Zuckerberg and Tony Elumelu, Chairman United Bank of Africa, arrive for the picture

‘There is no free lunch,’ he quipped in English to the executives lined up on the steps of the Elysee Palace for a photo call at a lunch meeting adding: ‘So I want from you some commitments.’

Macron is the first national leader to sit down with Zuckerberg since the data privacy scandal broke in March.

The President, a tech-savvy former investment banker, is keen to to attract more foreign investment to France and has said he wants to create a ‘start-up nation.’   

Back in 2014 he even flirted with the idea of becoming involved in an education start-up, before he became a minister in the then Socialist government. 

He said Macron wants the Facebook chief to understand the widespread concern about the misuse of social media.


Several indignant MEPs tried to get their questions in at the end but were cut off by European Parliament president Antonio Tajani as time was up.

The Facebook chief promised to respond to the questions he hadn’t addressed in writing – before exiting Parliament leaving behind an unsatisfied huddle of MEPs.

Zuckerberg’s refusal give a straight answer to questions also prompted widespread criticism.

‘Today’s pre-cooked format was inappropriate & ensured #Zuckerberg could avoid our questions,’ Guy Verhofstadt, one of the MEPs at the hearing, said afterwards.

‘I trust that written answers from Facebook will be forthcoming. If these are not accurately answered in detail, the EU competition authorities must be activated and legislation sharpened.’ 

Damian Collins, chair of the British Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, said: ‘What a missed opportunity for proper scrutiny on many crucial questions raised by the MEPs.

‘Questions were blatantly dodged on shadow profiles, sharing data between WhatsApp and Facebook, the ability to opt out of political advertising and the true scale of data abuse on the platform.

‘Unfortunately, the format of questioning allowed Mr Zuckerberg to cherry-pick his responses and not respond to each individual point.

‘I echo the clear frustration of colleagues in the room who felt the discussion was shut down.

‘It is time that Mr Zuckerberg agreed to appear in front of the DCMS committee to provide Facebook users the answers they deserve.’ 

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