Facebook won't make cars, Sandberg reassures Germany

Technology Reuters

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg speaks during the opening of the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg went on a charm offensive in Germany on Thursday, telling the country’s powerful automakers that the world’s biggest social network does not want to compete with them.

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“I come with very good news. We’re the only company in Silicon Valley that’s not building a car,” Sandberg said to laughter and applause at the opening ceremony of the Frankfurt motor show, where she met German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Facebook is sponsoring a “new mobility world” at the Frankfurt show that brings together carmakers, tech companies and start-ups in areas such as autonomous driving and electric cars.

Sandberg’s visit to Germany comes after the country’s parliament passed a law in June to introduce fines of up to 50 million euros ($59 million) for social media networks if they fail to remove hateful postings promptly.

On Wednesday - when Sandberg was attending a marketing conference in Germany - Facebook tightened its rules on who can make money from advertising on its network to make it harder for providers of fake news and sensational headlines to cash in.

Facebook also said on Wednesday it would step up its monitoring of hate speech, adding 3,000 content reviewers to nearly double the size of its existing team.

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“We take our responsibility to the people who use our products, to the countries in which we work like Germany, to society at large, very seriously,” Sandberg said on Thursday.

Sandberg announced that Facebook will join an urban mobility test project in Munich with carmakers and start-ups and said it will also sponsor a new university in Berlin focused on digital product development.


Facebook, which has about 30 million active users in Germany out of a population of 80 million, has run a major advertising campaign in the country in recent weeks in an attempt to address concerns about privacy and control of personal data.