Will Instagram and Facebook soon be out of business in Europe? Parent company Meta has once again threatened to pull the plug on the two platforms. This is CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s response to threats from the Irish Data Protection Commission to ban data transfers between the EU and the US.

The fire of the dispute between the EU and Mark Zuckerberg’s tech company Meta has been reignited. As reported by the Bloomberg news agency, the company is threatening to pull Facebook and Instagram out of Europe for the umpteenth time.

Back in February, Meta had held out the prospect of ending its two popular social media channels. The reason for this is the data protection guidelines of the European Union.

Privacy: Is Meta shutting down Instagram and Facebook in Europe?

As before, the looming end of Facebook and Instagram is Meta’s response to plans by Ireland’s data protection authority, which oversees the tech company in Europe. That’s because the authority could cripple transatlantic data traffic in the next three months. Then there would be no more data transfer between the EU and the US.

The basis for this decision is standard contractual clauses (SCCs), which are intended to protect consumers from the transfer of their private data abroad without their consent. It was only in March that Europe and the U.S. reached a preliminary agreement on a new data transfer pact.

The Supreme Court overturned an earlier EU agreement because U.S. authorities were able to spy on data without a corresponding data protection guarantee. The new agreement is currently being drafted. However, negotiations are expected to last until 2023. By then, Ireland could already ban the standard contractual clauses.

Meta potentially can no longer offer services in Europe

In a U.S. regulatory filing, Meta already put the end in sight for Facebook and Instagram. It states:

Unless a new transatlantic data transfer framework is adopted and we are able to continue to rely on SCCs or use other alternative means to transfer data from the European Union to the United States, we will likely be unable to offer a number of our key products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe.

The decision would significantly impact Meta’s business as well as the company’s financial position and related operating results, the tech giant added. So the decision to pull the plug on Facebook and Instagram can’t actually be in Meta’s best interest.

Hot debate over data transfer between Europe and the U.S.

Back in 2020, a surprise ruling by the EU’s highest court overturned the so-called Privacy Shield – a transatlantic pact for data transfers. The decision was made because Europe feared that the data of its citizens would not be safe from American surveillance.

Although standard contractual clauses were also confirmed at the time, the EU Court of Justice cast doubt on American data protection. And the Irish data protection authority was also unsure about the legality of the SCCs.

In February 2022, the regulator declared that transfers of SCCs should be suspended. Since then, the Irish have been revising this decision. Another 26 EU regulators are now expected to comment on the refinements.

The dispute between Europe and Meta, in turn, is also an old shoe. As early as 2020, Mark Zuckerberg wanted to pull Facebook and Instagram from the European market if the Irish Data Protection Commission banned data transfers between the EU and the US. For European consumers, it is to be hoped that Europe and Meta will get their act together again this time.