Mark Zuckerberg meets Donald Trump, rejects idea of breaking up Facebook

In July, social media platform was slapped with a fine of $5 billion for data protection violations

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 19: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaves a meeting with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in his office on Capitol Hill on September 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg is making the rounds with various lawmakers in Washington today.   Samuel Corum/Getty Images/AFP
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Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg met on Thursday with US President Donald Trump and members of Congress on a political reconnaissance mission to Washington, where he rejected calls to break up the world's biggest social network.

Mr Zuckerberg's visit comes as Facebook faces a myriad of regulatory and legal questions surrounding issues like competition, digital privacy, censorship and transparency in political advertising.

A Facebook spokesman said discussions were focusing in part on future internet regulation.

Senate Democrat Mark Warner, one of the lawmakers who has taken the lead in Washington on digital security, signaled they gave Mr Zuckerberg an earful.

The visit, including a Wednesday night private dinner with Mr Warner and other lawmakers, comes after his stormy appearance last year before Congress, where he was grilled on Facebook's data protection and privacy missteps.

Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican freshman and one of the more outspoken critics of Facebook, said he had a "frank conversation" with Mr Zuckerberg.

"Challenged him to do two things to show FB is serious about bias, privacy & competition. 1) Sell WhatsApp & Instagram 2) Submit to independent, third-party audit on censorship," Mr Hawley tweeted.

"He said no to both."

Mr Trump on late Thursday posted a picture on Facebook and Twitter showing him shaking hands with Mr Zuckerberg, but didn't share details of their conversation.

"Nice meeting with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook in the Oval Office today," the president wrote.

Federal and state anti-trust enforcers are looking into potential anti-competitive actions by Facebook, and members of Congress are debating national privacy legislation.

The messaging product WhatsApp and picture-sharing giant Instagram are part of Facebook's broad family of services that has made it a global online behemoth, but have also exposed the company to concerns about competition, data harvesting and sprawling digital control.

Two months ago, the US Federal Trade Commission hit Facebook with a record $5 billion fine for data protection violations in a wide-ranging settlement that calls for revamping privacy controls and oversight at the social network.

Earlier on Wednesday, executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter appeared before a Senate panel to answer questions on "digital responsibility" in the face of online violence and extremism.