As you are already well aware, Mark Zuckerberg testified in Congress yesterday, in a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees. This comes after Facebook’s controversial relationship with Cambridge Analytica and some concerns with the part they played in the 2016 Presidential Election. So what did he say, exactly?
Zuckerberg said that one of his biggest regrets in how he’s run Facebook relates to the company’s handling of the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. He noted that the company has been “better” at monitoring meddling in various elections, stopping tens of thousands of fake accounts. But that might not be enough to save Zuckerberg in front of these committees.
What’s really interesting, though, is that Zuckerberg left his notes open and in range of an AP photographer. What the photographer was able to snap a photo of are notes deflecting the role that Facebook has played in the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, and shifting the focus to Apple. More specifically the note says, “lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data, never seen Apple notify people”. I think that this is a tactic. Not necessarily a strategy on how to get through this. The notes also planned a response to questions about his resignation, which indicates that he’s made mistakes, but the company is facing a big challenge that they will solve.
But how are people reacting to Zuckerberg’s performance in front of the committee? The reactions are mixed, but investors seem to be satisfied with his responses. In fact, Facebook stock closed up 4.5% on the day, yesterday. We should point out that this is the biggest daily gain in more than two years. That said, not everyone is pleased with his performance. Democratic Senator Kamala Harris (California) asked a line of questions about whether Zuckerberg of his senior executives considered notifying Facebook users of the data breach. She posted her response on Twitter:
“Mark Zuckerberg’s failure to answer several critical questions during his appearance before the Senate today leaves me concerned about how much Facebook values trust and transparency.”
Democratic Senator Tom Udall also failed to get the yes or no response that he wanted, on whether Zuckerberg would lend his support to the Honest Ads Act, which would compel Facebook and others to reveal who was paying for political advertising on the platform. Zuckerberg’s response was vague: “Senator, the biggest thing I think we can do is implement it.” Huh? He went on to say that he would have his team focus on it, but I’m not sure that this satisfies the question.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) had the best questions, in my opinion. He asked if Zuckerberg would be comfortable sharing with the committee which hotel he was staying at. Zuckerberg, of course, said that he wasn’t comfortable sharing that information. He went on to ask if he would be comfortable sharing with the committee who he had communicated with over the last week. Again, he said that he would not want to respond to that.
The reason those are the best questions, in my opinion, is that it speaks to the heart of what Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to access. It also speaks to the fact that most people gave their information without knowing that they were giving it. Sure, they had to agree to the terms and conditions, but who knew they would say – oh and by the way, now this third-party has access to every piece of information you post on Facebook. Cambridge Analytica was the one getting the information, not necessarily the app.
Regardless of how people think his testimony went, I don’t think this bodes well for Facebook. Maybe it’s time that he does resign? This happens a lot, and I wonder if Facebook would be better off with someone else at the helm?