I—like a lot of people—despise Facebook, and yet, continue to use the platform partly as a necessity for work and to keep up with family. Luckily for Europe, the dream of the platform being banished completely might become a real thing.
In Meta’s annual report for the Securities and Exchange Commission, Meta mentioned that the company might have to entirely stop operating both Instagram and Facebook in Europe. Specifically, it said that if Europe couldn’t rely on new or existing agreements—such as so-called standard contractual clauses—to shift data, then it would “likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe”.
In 2020, Meta had already warned that it “may pull out of Europe” if it is unable to keep transferring user data back to the U.S. This was because of a ruling by the European court of justice, where they found insufficient safeguards against snooping by U.S. intelligence agencies. Facebook said that enforcing the ban would “leave the company unable to operate”.
“In the event that [Facebook] were subject to a complete suspension of the transfer of users’ data to the US…it is not clear… how, in those circumstances, it could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU,” said Yvonne Cunnane, Facebook’s associate general counsel.
According to Meta, the ability to process user data in between countries is “crucial for its business both operationally and for ad targeting”. But Europe is keen on protecting user privacy by keeping users’ data within the EU’s jurisdiction.
“We have absolutely no desire and no plans to withdraw from Europe, but the simple reality is that Meta, and many other businesses, organisations, and services, rely on data transfers between the EU and the US in order to operate global services… Only an arrangement that is fully compliant with the requirements set by the EU court can deliver the stability and legal certainty stakeholders expect on both sides of the Atlantic,” said a Meta spokesman.
Having Facebook and Instagram removed as major platforms for an entire continent will not just ruffle some tailfeathers—it could take away opportunities for big and small businesses, content creators, and publications. A lot of users who rely on the platforms could also suffer. But, the selfish part of me relishes the thought of Facebook being banished. We would no longer feel obligated to have an account on a platform that arguably defines what the social media world is. Sure, I could delete my account today… but wouldn’t it be easier if Facebook just did it for me?