Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg set foot in Capitol Hill, answered questions from the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees. Born long before the digital era took hold, the members of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees came to grill Mark Zuckerberg, the errant 33-year-old CEO who came before them in his uncustomary suit.
And for very good reason, since Facebook – where billions of people all over the world get their news, whether true or false – has been incredibly irresponsible and cavalier with users’ personal information. That was made clear last month in the blockbuster news that Facebook had allowed the phone numbers, emails and in some cases text messages of 87 million users to get into the hands of a data firm, Cambridge Analytica, bent on electing Donald Trump as president.
The senate witnessed a cold faced Zuckerberg and got to know how the giant social media platform works. Here are somethings that Mark said in the open session-
Facebook is “working” with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to Zuckerberg. He said he had not been personally interviewed by Mueller’s team, but that others in the company had.
“We’re working with the Special Counsel. I want to be careful here, because that work is confidential. We are in open session and I don’t want to reveal anything that is confidential,” Zuckerberg said.
There was a heated exchange between Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Zuckerberg over whether Facebook is a monopoly or not. Graham asked Zuckerberg to name competitors and he cited Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. The senator then kept probing and eventually asked, “You don’t think you have a monopoly?”
Zuckerberg said, “Doesn’t feel like that to me.”
On being asked about how will Facebook handle future election meddling?
Mark exclaimed, ‘Confidently.’ That’s the message from Zuckerberg who said he feels the social network is well equipped to handle upcoming votes such as the 2018 U.S. midterms and elections in countries like India and Brazil.
“This is an arms race. They’re (potential groups that want to intervene) going to keep on getting better at this. And we need to invest in keeping on getting better at this too,” Zuckerberg said.
“I have more confidence that we’re going to get this right,” he added.
Zuckerberg walked a fine line showing that he was open to regulations, but nothing that would fundamentally blow apart Facebook’s business model.
“My position is not that there should be no regulation. We welcome regulation if it’s right,” he claims.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told NBC News last week that users could have to pay to completely opt out of their data being used to target them with advertising.
Zuckerberg clarified this, saying that “there will always be a version of Facebook that is free.” The CEO explained that an ad-supported model is “most aligned with our mission of trying to connect everyone in the world, because we want to offer a free service that everyone can afford.”
Facebook has come under fire for not having a clear explanation of how data it collects are being used. Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana highlighted this point with a frank comment.
“Here’s what everyone’s been trying to tell you today — and I say it gently — your user agreement sucks,” Kennedy said. “The purpose of a user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end, not inform users of their rights.”
Zuckerberg said he imagines that “most people do not read the whole thing,” but they have the “opportunity” to.
The debate on whether Facebook is a publisher or merely a technology platform continues and was brought up in the testimony. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, asked Zuckerberg how he classed Facebook.
“When people ask us if we’re a media company or a publisher, my understanding is — what the heart of what they’re really getting at is — do we feel responsibility for the content on our platform?” Zuckerberg said. He asserts Facebook is a Tech company. “The answer to that, I think, is clearly yes, but I don’t think that’s incompatible with fundamentally, at our core, being a technology company where the main thing we do is have engineers and build products.”
Democrat congresswoman Anna Eshoo asked Zuckerberg whether his own data was “included in the data sold to malicious third parties,” to which the Facebook CEO responded, “Yes”.
The extent of Facebook’s data collection is, ultimately, the core concern of Facebook’s business. The company brings in $40 billion in advertising revenue annually because it offers brands data that gives them an unparalleled ability to target consumers. If Facebook stopped collecting this data, it would undermine its entire business model.
Throughout the hearings, Zuckerberg repeatedly sought to dispel the notion that Facebook sells user data. It doesn’t. But it does trade off user data. Harvesting the data and using it to target ads more effectively than its competitors can is how Facebook makes the bulk of its money.
It will be weeks before Facebook responds to Congress and addresses this issue. The congressional record is open for another two weeks for lawmakers to submit questions, a Facebook source said, after which Facebook will have several more days to respond. The performance had favorable results. Facebook shares closed up 0.78 percent on Wednesday after rising 4.5 percent Tuesday. Over the two days, the value of Zuckerberg’s stake in the company grew about $3 billion.
What do you think of Mark Zuckerberg’s senate hearing? Whatever be, we do not Facebook is here to stay!