Zuckerberk swapped his signature gray tee for a suit and tie.Image: Getty / Mashable CompositeBy Karissa Bell2018-04-10 18:06:23 UTC
Mark Zuckerberg’s moment is finally here.
On Tuesday, Facebook’s CEO will make his long-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill, where he will testify before the Senate’s Judiciary and Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committees.
Zuckerberg will speak about Facebook’s data privacy policies, which have come under fire in the wake of Cambridge Analytica, as well as the social network’s role in combating election interference. Senators are also likely to ask about a range of other topics, including terrorism, fake news, and the potential for increased regulation.
It’s a pivotal moment for the 33-year-old CEO, who has admitted his company “didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility.” In prepared remarks, released Monday, Zuckerberg said his biggest fault was being too “idealistic and optimistic.”
Whether that defense will hold up under lawmakers’ questioning, though, is another matter. The company is currently facing a number of inquiries, both at home and abroad over Cambridge Analytica.
The action is set to begin just after 2:15 p.m. ET, check back here for the latest updates, and follow along live.
2:15 p.m ET: Less than an hour before his testimony was scheduled to begin, Zuckerberg posted on Facebook about his upcoming appearance, “I will do everything I can to make Facebook a place where everyone can stay closer with the people they care about, and to make sure it’s a positive force in the world,” he wrote.
2:35 p.m ET: And we’re off, Senator Grassley kicks things off, notes there are 44 senators present, ie: this could go on for awhile.
2:45 p.m ET: Senator John Thune opens with a brief overview of the Cambridge Analytica issue, as well as Facebook’s recent revelation that nearly all users have had their public data scraped. In her opening statement, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democratic member on the Judiciary Committee, immediately brings up Russia-backed Internet Research Agency and the group’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
3:00 p.m ET: Zuckerberg gets his first chance to speak, gives his opening statement, which we first saw yesterday.
3:05 p.m ET: Zuckerberg says Facebook is conducting a “full investigation” into “tens of thousands of apps” and how they’re using data. Doesn’t say how long this investigation might take.
3:10 p.m ET: Zuckerberg, when asked about Sheryl Sandberg’s earlier comment that Facebook users would have to pay for an ad-free service says “we think offering an ad-supported service is the most aligned with our mission.”
3:25 p.m ET: Senator Feinstein asks about election interference, Zuckerberg says Facebook’s slowness in detecting foreign interference is one of his “greatest regrets” (remember that he once called the prospect a “crazy idea”).
3:30 p.m ET: Zuckerberg says Facebook risks falling behind Chinese competitors if they don’t innovate with “sensitive” features like facial recognition. I would guess this is a very deliberate talking point, Facebook is aware of how worried many in government (particularly Republicans) are about Chinese tech giants overtaking their U.S. counterparts.
3:40 p.m ET: Senator Wicker asks a question about whether Facebook can track users after they log out of the site, and Zuckerberg says he will have to get back to him on that. Seems pretty incredible that he wouldn’t understand a fundamental question about Facebook’s ad tracking.
3:50 p.m ET: Senator Lindsey Graham asks Zuckerberg about who Facebook’s biggest competitor is, Zuckerberg stumbles a bit, tries to name a list of companies. Graham interrupts, asks if he thinks Facebook is a monopoly.
3:56 p.m ET: Zuckerberg sounds supportive of a potential measure that would require Facebook (and, presumably, other companies) to notify users within 72 hours of a breach. Also important to note, Zuckerberg is not quibbling with senators over their use of the word “breach,” which execs got flack for early on in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
4:12 p.m ET: Senator John Cornyn asks Zuckerberg if users have a way of taking back data from Facebook after they’ve shared it. Zuckerberg replies that if you delete your account, Facebook removes it form its servers. Cornyn follows up, and asks if that applies to third-parties, Zuckerberg says it’s a “common misconception” that Facebook sells data to advertisers.
4:25 p.m ET: Ted Cruz is really hammering Zuckerberg about whether Facebook has censored political speech, asks why Palmer Luckey was fired from the company, he declines to give a specific reason but says it was not over his political views. (Remember that Luckey was booted from Oculus soon after reports he’d financially supported a controversial, pro-Trump group called Nimble America. Luckey denied those allegations at the time.)
5:00 p.m ET: Senator Deb Fischer with a rather awkward line of questioning about how and what data Facebook stores. It gives Zuckerberg ample opportunity to wiggle out of questions (Fischer isn’t alone on this, by the way).
5:06 p.m ET: Senator Ben Sasse asks Zuckerberg to define hate speech, he stumbles, “that’s a really hard question.” Note that Facebook clearly defines what it considers hate speech in its terms of service.
5:10 p.m ET: Sasse asks Zuckerberg whether he’s worried about social media addiction in young people, he completely dodges the question, which is very telling.
5:22 p.m ET: Senator Jeff Flake asks how many other services exploited data in the way Cambridge Analytica did, Zuckerberg mentions the ongoing audit, but says he doesn’t know at present: “I imagine we’ll find some things.”
5:25 p.m ET: Senator Maize Hirano asks Zuckerberg about whether Facebook cooperates with ICE, Zuckerberg says they would not “proactively” provide data, notes the company only provides specific data to law enforcement in certain defined cases, like with a court order.
5:30 p.m ET: China comes up once again, Senator Sullivan asks whether it’d have been possible to start Facebook in China, Zuckerberg waffles, but a moment later references the threat of Chinese tech giants again. Some context: Zuckerberg really, really wants to get into China, which will be essential to securing future growth. His efforts so far have been unsuccessful, but not for lack of trying. (He didn’t learn Mandarin just for fun.)
5:35 p.m ET: Sullivan concludes his questioning by asking Zuckerberg the age-old question of “are you a tech company or a media company?” Like Sheryl Sandberg and other Facebook execs before him, Zuckerberg resists the label of media company, though he acknowledges Facebook is responsible for the content on its platform.
5:45 p.m ET: Senator Moran asks how the Cambridge Analytica fiasco doesn’t amount to a violation of FTC regulations governing data sharing. Zuckerberg says it doesn’t. Zuckerberg also claims that Facebook users were fully aware that Facebook’s platform allowed for this type of sharing at the time, which seems.. disingenuous at best.
5:55 p.m ET: Senator Heller asks how quickly user data is removed from Facebook servers after they delete their account, Zuckerberg says he doesn’t know the specifics, but that Facebook attempts to do this in a “reasonable amount of time.” (Facebook says it can take up to 90 days.)
6:01 p.m ET: Senator Peters asks Zuckerberg about the recurring conspiracy theory that Facebook “mines” mobile audio in order to serve targeted ads to users, Zuckerberg says no, but notes Facebook does access audio for things like video sharing.
6:25 p.m ET: Senator Harris asks Zuckerberg if he, or anyone in Facebook leadership, was part of a specific conversation where it was decided not to alert users about Cambridge Analytica obtaining user data. Zuckerberg says he’s not aware of any such conversations. Zuckerberg says the company “made a mistake” by taking Cambridge Analytica at their word the data had been deleted.
6:30 p.m ET: Senator Kennedy to Zuckerberg: “Your user agreement sucks,” he says it’s written to protect “Facebook’s rear end,” not inform users.
6:38 p.m ET: In response to questioning from Senator Baldwin, Zuckerberg confirms that Kogan sold his trove of Facebook user data to “a couple of other firms” besides Cambridge Analytica.
6:45 p.m ET: The idea of an ad-free subscription version of Facebook comes up again, Zuckerberg doesn’t rule it out but repeats that free Facebook will be the best Facebook for the most people.
7:06 p.m ET: Senator Gardner asks if Facebook has ever been hacked, Zuckerbrg says yes, via malware on employee computers in 2013. But, he adds, he doesn’t believe user data was accessed.
7:25 p.m ET: Senator Grassley closes with a plea for Zuckerberg use Facebook’s platform to reduce cynicism in the electorate re: partisan divisions. Grassley notes the record will remain open for five days. Zuckerberg testified for about five hours, in total.