Meta denies it threatened to leave Europe

The company has 'absolutely no desire' to pull Facebook and Instagram from the continent.

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A man takes a selfie in front of a sign of Meta, the new name for the company formerly known as Facebook, at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, U.S. October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Carlos Barria / reuters

Meta has “absolutely no desire to withdraw from Europe.” The company issued the statement in a blog post it published on Tuesday after some media outlets published reports claiming it had “threatened” to pull Facebook and Instagram from the continent amid uncertainty over whether the US and European Union would agree to replace a scrapped transatlantic privacy agreement.

The “threat” Meta made came in the form of a disclosure the company made in its latest earnings report. Published last week, the document said the company would “likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe” if the US and European Union failed to ratify a new data transfer agreement and the company couldn’t depend on other existing mechanisms. Meta has issued similar warnings in the past, but it did so without naming Facebook and Instagram specifically.

At the center of Meta’s fears over its future on the European continent are the Safe Harbour Agreement and Privacy Shield, both of which were struck down by the European Court of Justice in recent years over fears of what happens to the data of EU citizens once it’s on servers in the US. As the company points out, it’s not the only business facing uncertainty over whether officials can agree to a substitute. It notes at least 70 other companies have voiced similar concerns.

"We want to see the fundamental rights of EU users protected, and we want the internet to continue to operate as it was intended: without friction, in compliance with applicable laws — but not confined by national borders,” the company said.

For the most part, European lawmakers seemed to welcome the prospect of Meta leaving the EU market. “I can confirm that life is very good without Facebook and that we would live very well without Facebook,” said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire when asked to comment on the possibility of Meta pulling Facebook and Instagram. “Digital giants must understand that the European continent will resist and affirm its sovereignty.”

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