Technology 7 min read

Key Highlights From Zuckerberg's Two-day Clash With Lawmakers

Frederic Legrand - COMEO /

Frederic Legrand - COMEO /

It’s been two tough days for Mark Zuckerberg as the U.S. Senate and House Congressional committees grilled him about the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Weeks after the data breach scandal broke out, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has appeared in front of U.S. lawmakers to address the issue his company is currently facing.

On Tuesday, Zuckerberg was questioned by members of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees. It was then followed by his appearance in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

During the joint session of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees, the embattled CEO remained calm. Witnesses were quick to point out that the five-hour long session mostly involved Zuckerberg trying to explain Facebook’s technology to the lawmakers.

Many were disappointed that the most significant issue, which is Facebook’s handling of users’ data privacy and protection, has not been dealt with accordingly. In fact, the online community lamented that Zuckerberg’s only struggle was in explaining to the “elderly” lawmakers how Facebook works behind the scenes.

the social network
Gosh darnit, Ted Cruz, didn’t you watch The Social Network? Facebook is run exclusively by window-drawn algorithmic equations!

However, Zuckerberg’s appearance in front of the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee proved more interesting. It appears that the esteemed representatives were more eager to roast him than the Senators who were mostly polite while seeking answers from the young CEO.

Here are some of the highlights of the two-day Congressional hearings.

Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees vs. Mark Zuckerberg

During his privileged speech at the beginning of the session, Zuckerberg has once again apologized for the data breach, claiming that as founder and current CEO of Facebook, he is taking full responsibility for what happened.

When asked if his company is gaining profits from selling user data, Zuckerberg firmly said that Facebook does not.

“We do not sell data to advertisers. What we allow is for advertisers to tell us who they want to reach. And then we do the placement,” Zuckerberg said.

So yea, basically, Facebook sells user data.

Here are some of the questions from the Senators that Zuckerberg tried to answer or evade.

SENATE: “Do you have a monopoly?”

ZUCKERBERG: “Certainly doesn’t feel that way.” He then emphasized that Facebook has many competitors and that his company offers a “number of different services.”

“The average American uses eight different apps to communicate with their friends and stay in touch with people. Ranging from texting apps to e-mail,” he said.

SENATE: “Will there be a paid, ad-free version of Facebook?”

ZUCKERBERG: “There will always be a free version of Facebook.” Many took that as an indication that a paid version of the social network could potentially happen in the future.

SENATE: “How will Facebook improve its moderation tools?”

Hate speech and problematic posts were also brought up during the session. When asked how the company is handling them, Zuckerberg claimed that Facebook is now relying on artificial intelligence to improve its moderation tools. That’s on top of the over 20,000 employees manually scanning Facebook content.

SENATE: “Is Facebook listening to your calls and conversations?”

For years, Facebook has been accused of spying on people’s messages and actually listening to conversations through a user’s phone microphone. Sen. Gary Peters directly asked Zuckerberg “Yes or no, does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about users?”

ZUCKERBERG: answered with a firm “NO.”

The four-hour Senate hearing revealed one alarming albeit unsurprising truth: most, if not all of the Senators, have a limited understanding of how Facebook really works. Some clear indications are as follows:

  • Zuckerberg had to explain on more than one occasion that Facebook does not sell data.
  • Senator Schatz referred to WhatsApp messages as Email.
  • Senator Hatch couldn’t understand how Facebook generates revenue through paid ads.

You can watch the full coverage of the Senate hearing below.

House Energy and Commerce Committee vs. Mark Zuckerberg

On Wednesday, Zuckerberg was once again in the hot seat, but this time with the members of the House of Representative’s Committee on Energy and Commerce. Here are some of the most significant moments during the second Congressional hearing.

In a quick question and answer with Representative Anna Eshoo, Zuckerberg was asked if his own data was also among those sold to Cambridge Analytica.

ZUCKERBERG: paraphrasing: ‘my data was also among those stolen by Cambridge Analytica.’

HOUSE: Does Facebook gather information from non-Facebook users?

ZUCKERBERG: “In general we collect data on people who are not signed up for Facebook for security purposes.”

HOUSE: “What is Facebook?”

Noting that Facebook has broadcasting deals and money transferring tools, Rep. Greg Walden asked the CEO what Facebook really is.

ZUCKERBERG: “I consider us to be a technology company because the primary thing that we do is have engineers that write code and build products and services for other people. There are certainly other things that we do . . . We build planes to help connect people, and I don’t consider us to be an aerospace company.”

HOUSE: “Why are there no people of color on your leadership team?”

ZUCKERBERG: “We have a broader leadership than just [the] five people [on our leadership team].

House Rep. Jan Schakowsky used her time to point out past instances where Zuckerberg has to apologize on behalf of Facebook.

“You have a long history of growth and success, but you also have a long list of apologies. In 2003 it started at Harvard, ‘I apologize for any harm done as a result of my neglect.’ 2006, ‘We really messed this one up.’ 2007, ‘We simply did a bad job. I apologize for it.’ 2010, ‘Sometimes we move too fast.’ 2011, ‘I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes.’ 2017, this is in connection with the Russian manipulation of the election and the data that came from Facebook initially, ‘I ask for forgiveness. I will work to do better.’ So it seems to me that self-regulation, this is proof to me that self-regulation does not work,” she said.

HOUSE: “How does Facebook use the data it collects from its users?”

“There’s an awful lot of information that is generated that people don’t think that they’re generating, and that advertisers are being able to target because Facebook collects it,” Rep. Joe Kennedy said, referring to the information gathered by Facebook that is not provided by its users.

ZUCKERBERG: “My understanding is that the targeting options that are available for advertisers are generally things that are based on what people share. Now, once an advertiser chooses how they want to target something, Facebook also does its own work to rank and determine which ads are going to be interesting to which people.”

“So we may use metadata or other behaviors of what you’ve shown that you’re interested in news feeds or other places in order to make our systems more relevant to you, but that’s a little bit different from giving that as an option to an advertiser.”

Below is the full coverage of Zuckerberg’s appearance in front of the House of Representatives.

Are you satisfied with the outcome of the two-day Congressional hearing?

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Rechelle Ann Fuertes

Rechelle is the current Managing Editor of Edgy. She's an experienced SEO content writer, researcher, social media manager, and visual artist. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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