Mark Zuckerberg has challenged Europe to write a set of 21st century laws for internet companies, warning that China will step in with a framework for regulation if the West does not.
Facebook’s chief executive told Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner in charge of a set of new online laws, that a new “digital deal” would be needed after the coronavirus pandemic that covers privacy, freedom of speech and competition.
“What I worry about is right now I think there are emerging two very different frameworks that are underpinned by very different sets of values,” Mr Zuckerberg said in a live video chat hosted by the Center on Regulation in Europe.
“A lot of different countries are looking at China and their economy and the companies that are coming out of there, and saying, ‘Hey that model looks like maybe it might work.’.
“I think that that’s really dangerous and I worry about that kind of model spreading to other countries. I think that the best antidote to that is having a different sort of framework that comes out of Western democratic countries that can become a standard around the world.”
China, where Facebook and Google are blocked, requires internet companies to store data on servers in the country, and messages on social apps are closely monitored and censored.
Mr Zuckerberg said European countries could set these rules for the world, citing 2018’s GDPR data laws that have since inspired regulations elsewhere. “When Europe sets policies they often become the standards around the world. There really needs to be leadership in setting up a framework and I think that in a lot of places Europe continues to lead the way here,” he said.
The comments represent Mr Zuckerberg’s latest attempt to position Facebook as an ally of Western governments against China, a position he has taken both to secure support for the Facebook-backed Libra cryptocurrency and to warn against the rise of TikTok, the rapidly-growing social app owned by China’s ByteDance.