Facebook's European Executive Cites Privacy in Breakup Defense

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc.’s most senior executive in Europe refuted claims that the social network should be split into separate businesses, saying a company shouldn’t be broken up just because it’s popular.

The social-media giant has also been under intense pressure from privacy advocates, lawmakers, rivals, and members of the public, to better protect its users’ personal information, and do more to prevent the spread of hate speech, political disinformation and terror content on its platform.

"I don’t know why a company should be broken up because it’s popular," Nicola Mendelsohn, vice president for the EMEA region, said in a Bloomberg Television interview Thursday. "If you look we’ve made huge investments in the area of safety, in the area of privacy and election interference."

Her comments follow opinions voiced by Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s founders, who said last week that breaking up the company would help rein in its dominance. U.S. presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has expressed similar feelings.

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has publicly agreed his company needs to improve, and that he wants the company to become a more private place for friends to talk and share.

But Zuckerberg has repeatedly refused to appear in front of lawmakers in the U.K., who have demanded he give evidence as part of a parliamentary inquiry into fake news. Mendelsohn said Thursday the CEO had not changed his stance.

"Mark has been asked to come here," she said, "but has no plans to."

Facebook has also seen no evidence of its platform being used to interfere with the upcoming European elections. "We haven’t seen signs specifically of interference," Mendelsohn said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.