Irish Facebook data centre ‘is not tax dodge’, says Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been defending his decision to build a new data centre in Ireland against claims the move is a tax dodge.

The social media mogul announced the start of construction of the €200m facility at Clonee on the Meath-Dublin border on his own Facebook page, quickly attracting 800 responses.

But among the congratulations from around the world and tongue-in-cheek job applications from this country, there were questions about why he wasn’t building it in the US, which led to debate about Ireland’s reputation as a tax haven.

Mr Zuckerberg replied that he already had four data centres in the US and he was locating at Clonee for technical reasons. “It’s helpful to also have data centers on other continents so they’re closer to the people we’re serving there. That makes our services faster for people around the world,” he wrote.

“Internet services connect at the speed of light. That is very fast, but if you live all the way around the world, it might mean introducing 0.1s or 0.2s of lag for every connection made.

“Since using our services often takes tens or hundreds of requests, putting data centers around the world adds up to a meaningfully better experience over time.”

The IDA backed Clonee centre will provide 2,000 jobs during construction and 150 when it opens late next year or in early 2018. Tánaiste Joan Burton was among the first to applaud the move. “Good news that Facebook to begin construction on data centre in Clonee, as we launch Dublin Action Plan for Jobs today,” she tweeted.

Facebook has been criticised for exploiting low tax environments for its operations. Facebook Ireland paid just €3.4m in corporation tax last year despite the company’s revenues hitting almost €5bn.

But Mr Zuckerberg seemed to be taking the detractors with a pinch of salt yesterday as he enthused about the technology being used in the design at Clonee.

“One interesting engineering detail is that we’re cooling the facility with outdoor air, but because this is near the Irish Sea we’ll be using an indirect air cooling process to filter the salt from the air,” he said.


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