It seems Facebook may yet climb back up the social media ladder of success after Mark Zuckerberg defended his company from senators who were seemingly ill-equipped to question him on the inner workings of Facebook and the Internet. He was mostly able to paraphrase from blog posts and statements he’d already released. When that didn’t work, he basically explained how basic Facebook functionality works.
Testimony: Day 1
Whether you believe him or not, Zuckerberg gave the impression there is little to uncover as he navigated through any difficult or potentially dangerous questions. He convinced many that Facebook is atoning for what it’s done and is well aware of its responsibility, indicating it has a plan to improve data privacy.
Each senator was given 5 minutes to ask their questions, forcing them to speed through their list of queries. This made it tough for them to focus on the tougher questions and to unearth any real answers.
Answers Not Forthcoming
According to TechCrunch, the public didn’t get answers to any of the big questions. Mark’s prep work meant he could simply regurgitate FB’s talking points.
Did Facebook cover up the Cambridge Analytica scandal or decide against adding privacy protections earlier to protect its developer platform? Is it a breach of trust for Zuckerberg and other executives to have deleted their Facebook messages out of recipients’ inboxes? How has Facebook used a lack of data portability to inhibit the rise of competitors? Why doesn’t Instagram let users export their data the way they can from Facebook?
Zuckerberg’s responses were delivered with politician-like savvy, and, although boring, helped investors to reward Facebook with a 4.5% share price boost.
FB knew these testimonies would be a difficult storm to weather, so Zuckerberg came in armed with a fortress of facts that he could point to no matter what questions came his way. These questions and responses were part of the testimony:
- Was Facebook asleep at the wheel during the 2016 election? Last week it revealed it had deleted the accounts of Russian GRU intelligence operatives in June 2016.
- How will Facebook prevent this from happening again? Last week it announced plans to require identity and location verification for any political advertiser or popular Facebook Page, and significantly restricted its developer platform.
- Is Facebook taking this seriously? Zuckerberg wrote in his prepared testimony for today that Facebook is doubling its security and content moderation team from 10,000 to 20,000, and that “protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”
- Is Facebook sorry? “We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is and that was a huge mistake. That was my mistake,” Zuckerberg has said, over and over.
Testimony: Day 2
Day 2 has proven to make Mark sweat just a bit more. Not only was the head of Facebook being grilled for inadequate data policies, he caught a lot of mud for the perceived suppression of conservative thought.
Diamond & Silk
It was touched upon during Tuesday’s hearing, but Facebook’s seemingly biased treatment of religious and conservative content was brought to the forefront during Wednesday’s gamut of questions. According to Wired, Texas representative Joe Barton read a message he received from a constituent through Facebook.
"Please ask Mr. Zuckerberg why is Facebook censoring conservative bloggers such as Diamond and Silk?" he read. "Facebook called them unsafe to the community. That is ludicrous. They hold conservative views. That isn't unsafe."
"Congressman, in that specific case, our team made an enforcement error, and we've already gotten in touch with them to reverse it," Zuckerberg replied frankly, a defense he would return to repeatedly. Diamond and Silk later denied hearing from Facebook.
Diamond and Silk are two black women who allegedly have had conservative views – views that were limited by Facebook supposedly due to them not jiving with what the company deems as “unsafe to the community”.
The conversation about ideological censorship on Facebook is key.
Zuckerberg In Washington
At any rate, the breakdown of Mark’s time in Washington D.C. is thus: Congress asked Mr. Zuckerberg simple questions, because no one really understands how Facebook works, during his two days of testimony, Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly misrepresented how much control users really have over their privacy and he also has a whole lot of following up to do.