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Facebook and Instagram May Shut Down Across Europe

Published: February 7, 2022
In this photo illustration, the Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a Meta logo on October 28, 2021 in Paris, France. (Image: Chesnot/Getty Images)

Meta, the parent company for social media giants Facebook and Instagram, is threatening to shutdown service across Europe should the company not be granted the ability to transfer, store and process data from its European users on U.S.-based servers.

The social media company is saying that it could walk away from countries in the European Union — excluding Britain post Brexit — if a new EU law is introduced which restricts the use of European’s data. 

In Meta’s annual report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the social media giant said current EU regulations are preventing data transfer which the company says is essential for its operations. 

European regulators are in the process of drafting new laws which will determine how users’ data is transferred to the United states.

Currently, agreements in place allow data to be transferred however this arrangement is under heavy scrutiny which directly threatens Mark Zuckerberg’s business model. 

In a statement Meta said, “If a new transatlantic data transfer framework is not adopted and we are unable to continue to rely on SCCs (standard contractual clauses) or rely upon other alternative means of data transfers from Europe to the United States, we will likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe.”

European’s data was regulated via a data transfer framework known as the “Privacy Shield” however a European Court of Justice annulled the treaty due to what the courts said were violations of data protection. 

Since the treaty was annulled authorities in Europe and the U.S. have been working on a new version but to date nothing has been implemented. 

Meta’s VP of Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg, said in a statement, “A lack of safe, secure and legal international data transfers would damage the economy and hamper the growth of data-driven businesses in the EU, just as we seek a recovery from Covid-19,” adding that “The impact would be felt by businesses large and small, across multiple sectors.”

He urged policymakers to work towards a long-term solution and to adopt a proportionate and pragmatic approach to minimize disruption to the “many thousands of businesses who, like Facebook, have been relying on these mechanisms in good faith to transfer data in a safe and secure way.” 

In late 2020, Ireland’s Protection Commission ordered Facebook to halt the transfer of data to the U.S. for it’s Irish users with a final decision on the matter expected in the first half of 2022. Should Facebook fail to comply the company faces fines of up to $2.8 billion. 

Meta’s threats come after shares in Facebook plunged on Feb. 3, wiping out over $230-billion from the tech giant’s market value. Meta shares were down 26 percent on Thursday, its steepest one-day decline since the company started trading in 2012.