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Macron urges world's tech bosses to be good in Paris meeting

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Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg in conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron at the TechforGood summit REUTERS/Charles Platiau/Pool

French President Emmanuel Macron met Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and other top tech bosses on Wednesday in an effort to convince them to pay more taxes and be socially responsible. The TechforGood summit comes ahead of Thursday's VivaTech trade fair, part of the 40-year-old president's effort to make France a "start-up nation".


Macron lunched with about 60 of the world's tech leaders at the Elysée presidential palace on Wednesday and had face-to-face meetings scheduled with Zuckerberg, IBM's Ginni Rometty, Microsoft's Satya Nadella and Uber's Dara Khosrowshahi.

Even before meeting Rometty, Macron could boast of a victory with an announcement on Wednesday that IBM would create 1,800 jobs in France and expand its training programmes here.

The jobs, 400 of which had already been announced at March's Paris artificial intelligence summit, will develop artificial intelligence, the Blockchain digital assets platform, cloud computing and the internet of things.

Fake news, tax, employment

Zuckerberg's on Tuesday told European MPs that Facebook had "not done enough to prevent these tools being used for harm", such as the abuse of confidential information by companies such as Cambridge Analytica, which allegedly used it to influence last year's US presidential election.

Macron was expected to tackle him and the other tech moghuls on the spread of fake news, tax regulation and their social responsibilities.

Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon are criticised by EU leaders for their extensive use of tax havens, although efforts to tighten up the bloc's law on the question have come to grief due to opposition from low-tax countries like Ireland and Luxembourg.

Macron, a former merchant banker, has a worldwide reputation for being business-friendly and, in contrast to his decree-orientated approach to labour reform, his efforts to influence companies have largely been in the form of appeals for good behaviour, backed up with extensive tax cuts.

Tackling urban poverty

That approach was in evidence on Tuesday when he rejected the idea of a new plan to revive France's "banlieueus", the rundown areas on the edges of most towns and cities that are home to more than five million people.

While announcing that the public sector would organise 15,000 more internships for youngsters from the banlieues, he appealed to the country's 120 biggest companies to match that figure, announcing a plan to monitor racial discrimination in employment through tests over the next three years.

The president ignored a proposal in a report he himself commissioned from former urban development minister Jean-Louis Borloo to invest a billion euros a year over five years into urban renewal in 1,300 problem districts, although he had already announced the creation of 30,000 creche places to help women enter the labour force.

Policing is also to be stepped up and Macron vowed to crack down on drug trafficking.

Many local and national politicians have expressed disappointment at the declaration, the right accusing him of ignoring immigration and radical Islamism, the left claiming that tax handouts to the wealthy should have been used to fund anti-poverty campaigns such as free school meals.