Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is back on Capitol Hill today for another round of questioning by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, following Tuesday’s five-hour Senate hearing.
Zuckerberg took questions from almost 50 legislators on Tuesday. The CEO was questioned on data privacy, Facebook’s handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and potential regulation of the social media giant.
On Wednesday, Zuckerberg once again insisted that privacy was central to Facebook’s corporate ethos. Zuckerberg pointed to the fact that users can choose who to share their post with as an example of this at work. However, when Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California, asked whether he would consider changing Facebook’s business model to better protect privacy, Zuckerberg was evasive, answering that he “didn’t know what that question means.”
At several points throughout the hearing, Zuckerberg fell back on the mantra “We believe you control your own content,” without substantiating the claim.
Zuckerberg was taken to task on censorship again today, particularly of conservative content. Republican congressman Fred Upton pointed to an example of a Michigan Republican whose campaign page was removed from Facebook, and several Congressmen grilled the CEO about Facebook’s restriction of pro-Trump vloggers Diamond and Silk’s page.
Both of these cases were mistakes, claimed Zuckerberg. He told Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that Facebook does censor certain content, like terrorism related posts, but said “We don’t think of it as censorship.”
“Diamond and Silk are not terrorists,” Blackburn replied.
With each committee member only allowed to speak for four minutes, many ran out of time before they could get properly press Zuckerberg. Blackburn snapped at him for attempting to stall on her questions.
God the number of non-sequiturs in Zuck’s answers are killing me. “Who owns the virtual you? Who owns the profile you build up on people?” “We’re very clear you own all your content” THAT WASN’T THE QUESTION
— you heard it here first: facebook is bad (@alexhern) April 11, 2018
John Shimkus (R-IL) asked Zuckerberg whether users are tracked when they are logged out of Facebook. THe CEO replied that Facebook tracks “certain information for ads and security. Even if someone isn’t logged in we track how many pages they’re accessing as a security measure.”
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) asked Zuckerberg how long Facebook’s internal audit into data sharing with third-party developers would take. Zuckerberg said it could take many months or years, and the company currently knew of a “handful” of violations.
Zuckerberg downplayed Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and dismissed as “conspiracy theories” claims that Facebook monitors users through their phone cameras and microphones.
In an exchange with Kathy Castor (D-FL), Zuckerberg mumbled and dodged when grilled on the company’s collection of personal data. When asked about collecting data on users’ physical location, Zuckerberg tried to change the subject, replying “let’s talk about control.”
Zuckerberg looked uncomfortable as West Virginia Representative David McKinley (R) grilled him over Facebook’s complicity in allowing illegal pharmacies to use the platform to sell opioids. Mckinley displayed a screenshot from one such page, taken just one day ago, as Zuckerberg squirmed. West Virginia has been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic in recent years.
Whether it is for finding election interference, censoring “terrorist’ content”, looking for third-party data breaches, or fighting the opioid crisis, Zuckerberg repeatedly came back to the same answer: “Build more AI tools.” Despite the fact that Facebook employs over 20,000 people to monitor content, Zuckerberg said this would never be enough.
The 33-year-old CEO has been thrust into the spotlight after the Cambridge Analytica controversy broke last month. Following the revelation that some 87 million Facebook users had their personal data sold to a third party, Facebook was rocked with a series of follow-up scandals.
Yesterday, news broke that another analytics company, CubeYou, had access to millions of users’ data. Last week, it was revealed that Facebook sent a doctor on a mission to top US hospitals in an effort to convince them to disclose private patient data for marketing purposes.