Zuckerberg Testimony Reveals Lawmaker Confusion on Facebook

Facebook is Confronting its Biggest Privacy Scandal in 14 Years
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

NEW YORK (AP) – Mark Zuckerberg has faced two days of grilling before House and Senate committees to address Facebook’s privacy issues and the need for more regulation for the social media site.

Yet the hearings in Washington managed to showcase the normally press-shy Zuckerberg’s ability to perform as an able and well-rehearsed, if a bit stiff, CEO of one of the world’s biggest companies, and the degree to which much of Congress appears befuddled about technology and the relevant issues.

“For the most part, so far, this has been a victory for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg and enormous validation that D.C. is ineffectual,” said Scott Galloway, who teaches marketing at New York University.

Part of the problem was the structure of the hearings. Dozens of lawmakers had just four or five minutes to ask questions. Tough follow-up queries were few.

Another was age: The average age of senators who questioned Zuckerberg is 62, with several in their 80s. On Tuesday, senators peppered Zuckerberg with questions about Facebook’s lengthy privacy policy and its data but often didn’t seem to know how to follow up on Zuckerberg’s talk of algorithms and AI systems.

Many of Zuckerberg’s answers to Congress people served as a crash course in Facebook 101, or basic information about Facebook’s business model. On Tuesday, 84-year old Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who had been a senator for nearly eight years when Zuckerberg was born, asked how Facebook’s business model works given that it is free.

“Senator, we run ads,” Zuckerberg explained, a smile breaking through his solemn demeanor.

Another laugh came when Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked whether Facebook was a monopoly.

“It certainly doesn’t seem that way to me,” Zuckerberg replied

On Wednesday, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, had a similar “Grandpa” moment, holding up his phone and observing that he had received a question from a constituent “through Facebook.”

“I actually use Facebook,” he added.

Bobby Rush, D-Ill., appearing frail, reached back in history to liken Facebook’s privacy policy to J. Edgar Hoover’s covert FBI surveillance program, called Counter Intelligence Program, or Cointelpro, in the 1960s. Zuckerberg responded with one of his oft-repeated statements that users control who sees what on their Facebook page.

And in the fourth hour of the House hearing on Wednesday, Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., asked a question Zuckerberg had been asked multiple times. Once again, it was about the basic way Facebook works.

“How can someone control keeping the content within the realm they want it to without being collected?” Mullin asked.

“If you don’t want any data to be collected around advertising, you can turn that off and we won’t do it,” Zuckerberg reiterated.

The soft questioning “goes directly to the point that the technical expertise among senators is weak,” said Timothy Carone, a Notre Dame business professor.

The hearings were a major test for Zuckerberg. Facebook is confronting its biggest privacy scandal in 14 years.

Categories: Business, News, News – Latest News, US & World News