Zuckerberg faces more questions, criticism in 2nd day before Congress
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced his second day of grilling on Capitol Hill Wednesday, appearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to answer more questions about the platform’s privacy practices and handling of misinformation.
“I think it is time to ask whether Facebook may have moved too fast and broken too many things,” Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said at the start of the hearing.
Zuckerberg opened his five-hour testimony with a statement emphasizing the good Facebook has done for charities, protest marches, and small businesses but also acknowledging personal responsibility for problems the company has inadvertently enabled.
“But it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well,” he said. “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry.”
Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., who is not on the committee, said Wednesday the amount of information companies like Facebook can collect on users is “very scary” and he suggested Congress may have some role in protecting that data.
“I think the idea that I would know whatever websites you have been looking at for the last five years or whoever you had had contact with is really nobody’s business,” Grothman said, “and its something quite frankly throughout human history nobody would have been able to know until now.”
On Wednesday, Zuckerberg reiterated his stance that more regulation of the internet is unavoidable, but lawmakers should be very cautious in crafting new rules.
"The internet is growing in importance around the world ... I think it is inevitable that there will need to be some regulation,” he said. “My position is not that there should be no regulation, but I also think you need to be careful about what regulation you put in place."
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., pointed out the many times the Facebook founder has found himself apologizing for the company’s handling of data in the past.
“It seems to me from this history... that self-regulation simply does not work,” she said.
Zuckerberg repeated many of the points he made when he testified before a joint session of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Commerce Committee for almost five hours Tuesday, fielding inquiries from lawmakers who often displayed a limited grasp of how Facebook operates.
"How do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?" Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asked at one point during that hearing.
“Senator, we run ads,” Zuckerberg replied. In 2017, Facebook generated almost $40 billion in advertising revenue.
Facebook’s handling of user data has fallen under a congressional microscope recently since it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm hired by to President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign, obtained information on tens of millions of Americans without their knowledge.
Cambridge got public profile information from a researcher whose personality quiz app collected data on the friends of users who took it. Although only about 270,000 people used the app, Facebook estimates up to 87 million people may have been affected.
The data firm has claimed it received information on 30 million users, but it deleted the data in 2015 and did not use it to benefit Trump’s campaign.
Facebook also revealed last week that “malicious actors” have likely scraped public profile data from most of its two billion users. The company has since sought to make privacy settings more easily accessible and understandable for those who are uncomfortable with their information being shared.
Zuckerberg acknowledged Wednesday that he is among the Facebook users whose data was obtained by malicious third parties.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who questioned Zuckerberg at the Senate hearing, said that companies like Facebook and Amazon are encountering problems because they have outgrown their original plans.
“Even if they were fairly idealistic at some point, the business needs of the company overwhelmed some of that idealism,” Blunt said.
He suggested some of the voluntary guidance the Federal Trade Commission has offered to tech companies could develop into regulations.
“That voluntary advice in some cases is likely to have to become statutory and permanent advice,” he said.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called some of Zuckerberg’s answers “very troubling,” adding that he has already sent Facebook a letter seeking additional information about issues that were raised.
“After the hearing on the House side is completed, we’ll start looking at ideas for the future to ensure that consumers are better protected in the days ahead,” he said.
On Tuesday, senators pressed Zuckerberg on Facebook’s business practices, its content policies, and the potential for new regulations to police the tech industry. Republicans also questioned whether the platform suppresses conservative voices like outspoken Trump supporters Diamond and Silk.
Asked about Diamond and Silk again Wednesday, Zuckerberg said an “enforcement error” resulted in them being told their videos were “unsafe,” and efforts are underway to reverse that.
“I do agree that we should work to give people the fullest free expression that’s possible,” he said.
According to Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., how Zuckerberg and Facebook follow through on that promise will help determine the direction that Congress takes on tech regulations.
“I think we need more transparency, more openness,” he said. “I think as a last resort we should look at regulation, but if they are not complying, if they are not engaged in a fair process and giving everybody a fair chance when it comes to the internet, there’s real concern there.”