Skip to main content
Tags: facebook | privacy | mark zuckerberg | congress | capitol hill | russia

Zuckerberg Defends Facebook's Value as Senators Question Apology

Zuckerberg Defends Facebook's Value as Senators Question Apology

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Tuesday, 10 April 2018 06:15 PM EDT

Facebook Inc. co-founder Mark Zuckerberg defended the social network’s value before Congress and pledged to correct its mistakes, as senators questioned whether he’ll deliver after years of failed assurances that he’d protect user privacy.

“People come to Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Messenger about 100 billion times a day to share a piece of content or a message with a specific set of people,” Zuckerberg said of his company’s services Tuesday at a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees. That core part of the company “does seem to be working fairly well.”

But lawmakers were less convinced by the billionaire chief executive officer’s mea culpa -- “it was my mistake and I’m sorry” -- that he failed to do enough to prevent the social network from being misused for fake news, Russian election interference and hate speech.

“After more than a decade of promises to do better, how is today’s apology different?” Senator John Thune, Republican chairman of Senate Commerce, told Zuckerberg. “And why should we trust Facebook to make the necessary changes to ensure user privacy and give people a clearer picture of your privacy policies?"

‘Privacy Nightmare’

He said Zuckerberg has a responsibility to ensure his dream “doesn’t become a privacy nightmare” for millions of Americans.

“We’ve seen the apology tours,” scoffed Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He said Facebook has denied “even an ethical violation” of a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission on safeguarding users’ personal information.

Zuckerberg’s trip to Washington came after weeks of damaging reports about the social network’s data practices. The CEO and his deputies mounted a defense ahead of two days of congressional hearings, his first testimony at the Capitol. He’s scheduled to appear on Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Pressed on whether Facebook will always depend on advertising that draws on users’ personal data, Zuckerberg appeared to leave the way open for an ad-free version supported by fees. “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free,” he said.

Accepting Regulation

Zuckerberg, asked if Facebook would agree to government regulation of its data use, said “I think if it’s the right regulation, then yes.” He said his company will propose regulations it considers appropriate.

In response to questions from Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Zuckerberg said Facebook will audit tens of thousands of apps to find any misuse of user data. Asked why the company doesn’t disclose to users all the way its data might be used, Zuckerberg said “long privacy policies are very confusing, and if you make it long and spell out all the detail, then you’re probably going to reduce the number of people who read it.”

Facebook shares jumped as Zuckerberg spoke, closing up 4.5 percent in New York trading. They had been gaining for most of the day after declining about 1 percent just after trading began Tuesday. The stock has dropped 11 percent since reports about Cambridge Analytica’s harvesting of Facebook data for political purposes surfaced in March.

Suit and Tie

Zuckerberg, wearing a suit and tie in place of his usual gray t-shirt, had met with a number of lawmakers ahead of the hearing in what amounted to a charm offensive for the 33-year-old entrepreneur who started the world’s largest social network in a Harvard dorm room. He repeatedly invoked that origin story in his Senate testimony, just as he prefaced his answers by telling senators repeatedly that they’d asked a “great question.”

But the scandal over political data firm Cambridge Analytica’s access to tens of millions of accounts without users’ knowledge ensured a long day for Zuckerberg in an environment that wasn’t under his customary control, with a worldwide audience and the company facing fresh regulatory risks around the globe.

“Why didn’t Facebook notify 87 million users that their personally identifiable information had been taken” for "unauthorized political purposes?” Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee, said at the hearing.

“If Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix the privacy invasions, then we are going to have to, we the Congress,” Nelson said. “How can American consumers trust folks like your company to be caretakers of their most personal and identifiable information?”

Senators also pressed Zuckerberg on the company’s failure to stop Russian meddling through bogus accounts and misinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

“One of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations,” Zuckerberg said. Saying that fixing that vulnerability is one of his top priorities this year, he said the company has done a better job this year in France, Germany and last year in the Senate election in Alabama.

He said the company blocked “tens of thousands” of fake accounts with help from improved artificial intelligence tools. But he said “policing” Facebook isn’t going to be easy because the ability of AI to identify the difference between political debate and hate speech is five to 10 years away.

© Copyright 2024 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Facebook Inc. co-founder Mark Zuckerberg defended the social network's value before Congress and pledged to correct its mistakes, as senators questioned whether he'll deliver after years of failed assurances that he'd protect user privacy.
facebook, privacy, mark zuckerberg, congress, capitol hill, russia
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 06:15 PM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Sign up for Newsmax’s Daily Newsletter

Receive breaking news and original analysis - sent right to your inbox.

(Optional for Local News)
Privacy: We never share your email address.
Join the Newsmax Community
Read and Post Comments
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.

Interest-Based Advertising | Do not sell or share my personal information

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Download the NewsmaxTV App
Get the NewsmaxTV App for iOS Get the NewsmaxTV App for Android Scan QR code to get the NewsmaxTV App
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved