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    Senate tech critic to Facebook CEO: Sell WhatsApp, Instagram

    WASHINGTON (AP) — As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pic below) met on Thursday with United States (US) President Donald Trump and other critics of the tech industry, the Senate’s most vocal detractor offered a challenge: Sell your WhatsApp and Instagram properties to prove you’re serious about protecting data privacy.

    It may have been more than Zuckerberg expected from his private meeting with Senator Josh Hawley, a conservative Republican from Missouri, in his Capitol Hill office. Zuckerberg left the hour-long meeting — one of several with lawmakers on Capitol Hill — without answering questions from a throng of reporters and photographers pursuing him down a hallway. Hawley, though, had plenty to say.

    “The company talks a lot. I’d like to see some action,” he told reporters.

    “I will believe Facebook when I see some real action out of Facebook.” Rather than moving users’ personal data from properties such as WhatsApp and Instagram to the core Facebook platform, the company should put a wall around the services or, better yet, sell them off, Hawley told Zuckerberg.

    Zuckerberg, who requested the meeting, “did not think that was a great idea,” he said. Zuckerberg “had a good, constructive meeting with President Trump at the White House today”, a Facebook spokesman said. On Facebook and Twitter, Trump posted a photo with the caption, “Nice meeting with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook in the Oval Office today.” No details were given on the meeting, first reported by the Axios website.

    Trump has persistently criticised social media companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon and his platform of choice, Twitter, embracing conservative critics’ accusations that they censor anti-abortion and politically conservative views. Trump has claimed, without evidence, that the companies are “against me” and even suggested United States (US) regulators should sue them on grounds of anti-conservative bias.

    A Facebook spokesman declined to comment on Hawley’s remarks concerning his meeting with Zuckerberg. The popular services WhatsApp and Instagram are among some 70 companies that Facebook has acquired over the past 15 years or so, giving it what critics say is massive market power that has allowed it to snuff out competition. Zuckerberg’s discussion with Hawley touched on industry competition, data privacy legislation, election security and accusations by conservatives that Facebook and other social media giants are biased against right-leaning content.

    During his visit, Zuckerberg also met with other senators including Mark Warner, D-Va, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mike Lee, R-Utah, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark. He also declined to answer reporters’ questions when he left Lee’s office earlier in the afternoon.

    Congress has been debating a privacy law that could sharply rein in the ability of companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple to collect and make money off users’ personal data. A national law, which would be the first of its kind in the US, could allow people to see or prohibit use of their data.

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