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What just happened? Meta has responded to reports that it is threatening to shut down Facebook and Instagram in Europe over international data transfer rules. The company claims that it neither wants nor has threatened such action, though its annual 10-K filing seems to suggest otherwise.
Reports earlier this week revealed that in its annual report to the US securities and exchange commission, Meta wrote about its concerns over rules governing data transfer between countries, which are under scrutiny from regulators.
One section stated that if it is no longer allowed to use current data transfer agreements or similar alternatives, Meta will "likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe."
There appears to be little ambiguity in that statement, though it does feel like an empty threat given what Meta would lose if it did pull its services from Europe. Nevertheless, Meta Europe public policy VP Markus Reinisch writes that the company is "absolutely not threatening to leave Europe."
"Meta is not wanting or 'threatening' to leave Europe and any reporting that implies we do is simply not true. Much like 70 other EU and US companies, we are identifying a business risk resulting from uncertainty around international data transfers," Reinisch explained.
"We have absolutely no desire to withdraw from Europe; of course we don’t. But the simple reality is that Meta, like many other businesses, organizations and services, relies on data transfers between the EU and the US in order to operate our global services."
Reinisch adds that Meta/Facebook has raised the issue of international data transfers in each of its earnings reports since at least Q2 2018, highlighting risks to its services in Europe and the need for secure EU-US data transfer mechanisms.
While Reinisch claims Meta never threatened to pull Facebook/Instagram from the continent, the post doesn’t specifically state the services will remain in Europe regardless, nor does it mention would happen if a solution isn’t found to the EU-US data transfer issue.
Meta isn’t having the best of times right now. Last week’s financial report showed Facebook’s user numbers fell for the first time ever, crashing share prices and wiping billions off its value. It also sold off Diem and received its first-ever criminal charges, from Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest over claims it failed to prevent various scam ads from using his name and image.