Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg got his Congressional tour underway on Tuesday, appearing in front of a panel of 44 senators to answer questions about his platform in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. While many of the site’s 2.2 billion users, especially the 87 million who had their private data compromised, hoped lawmakers would hold Zuck’s feet to the fire, what actually happened was much more benign.
The five-hour session yielded a few interesting bits, but was plagued overall by repetitive questioning and a lack of understanding of multiple facets of Facebook. Zuckerberg did reiterate his acceptance of blame for allowing user data to be compromised, and outlined the steps the company plans to take in the future to better secure and vet those wanting to access their users’ data. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here … it will take some time to work through all of the changes we need to make, but I’m committed to getting it right,” said Zuckerberg.
Once the panel began their questioning, further details of substance were few and far between. Zuckerberg did reveal that Facebook had been contacted by special counsel Robert Mueller and that employees had been interviewed by Mueller’s team, though he was noncommittal on whether the company had been issued subpoenas. He also denied that Facebook is a monopoly, though his company owns three of the top five downloaded social apps. He also confirmed that he knew of Cambridge Analytica’s actions and presence as an advertiser on the platform in 2015, stating, “We, in theory, could have banned them in 2015 … we made a mistake in not doing so.”
Outside of these developments, the session was dominated by uninformed and repetitive questioning, empty threats by multiple senators and Ted Cruz’s attempt to center the argument against Facebook around the silencing of conservative voices on social media platforms. These questions ultimately did nothing but allow Zuckerberg to run out the clock as he continually answered the same question about Facebook’s business model, defined the term “selling data” and shift comfortably in his height-inflating cushioned chair (with which Twitter had a field day).
On the whole, five hours rendered less than one hour’s worth of valuable and newsworthy information while Cruz showed that he has never laid eyes on Reddit and many others postured outwardly for the camera. Zuckerberg will appear in front of the House on Wednesday. Let’s just hope that they were watching and learn from their mistakes.