Over two days of hearings, Mark Zuckerberg will be grilled by members of Congress about Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, how the platform manages users’ data policies, election integrity, and broader concerns about the company’s role in society.
Follow along for up-to-date news and analyses of Zuckerberg’s trip to DC.
Apr 25, 2018
Reps say ‘we have yet to receive any responses’ to questions from Zuckerberg testimony
When Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress earlier this month, he left a lot of questions in his wake. More than 20 times, he responded to Congressional inquiries by saying that he didn’t have the information on hand but that his team would follow up with more information after the hearing had closed.Read Article >
But 13 days after the hearings, congressional democrats on the House Energy and Commerce committee say still they haven’t heard anything from Facebook.
Apr 13, 2018
AI is an excuse for Facebook to keep messing up
Over the course of an accumulated 10 hours spread out over two days of hearings, Mark Zuckerberg dodged question after question by citing the power of artificial intelligence.Read Article >
Moderating hate speech? AI will fix it. Terrorist content and recruitment? AI again. Fake accounts? AI. Russian misinformation? AI. Racially discriminatory ads? AI. Security? AI.
Apr 13, 2018
Facebook isn’t tapping your microphone
Facebook users have continuously worried that the social media platform’s mobile apps, including Instagram, listen in on our conversations. It’s such a widespread concern that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to address it in a congressional hearing on privacy this week, where he called the notion a “conspiracy theory.”Read Article >
I hate to break it to everyone, but as far as we can tell, Facebook’s eavesdropping is a myth. Although I understand why the myth exists. People see eerily exact, targeted ads — sometimes about things they just discussed with friends — and they have to question what’s really happening behind the scenes. How does Facebook know what I’m talking about, and why am I getting served these ads at this exact moment?
Apr 12, 2018
This plan would regulate Facebook without going through Congress
After two days of bruising testimony before Congress, there’s never been more interest in regulating Facebook. In question after question this week, lawmakers seemed to take it as a given that new rules were needed to rein in Facebook, with proposals like the Markey-Blumenthal CONSENT Act (which would require opt-in consent for all data-sharing), taking center stage. At the same time, Congress doesn’t seem likely to act soon; most bills come from the Democratic minority, and both chambers are already settling into gridlock.Read Article >
In both hearings, Zuckerberg insisted he wasn’t opposed to new legal restrictions on the platform, although he demurred when asked to support specific measures. But there was one moment when he showed more interest than usual: when Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) mentioned Yale Law professor Jack Balkin’s concept of an information fiduciary, Zuckerberg seemed to perk up.
Apr 11, 2018
11 weird and awkward moments from two days of Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional hearing
This week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before members of Congress, splitting his visit into two days of questioning. There were expected queries regarding the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, about whether Facebook has grown too large and could be considered a monopoly, and how to better regulate the platform.Read Article >
Less expected were the weird and somewhat rambling moments throughout the combined 12 hours of testimony, as members of Congress grappled with the legitimately complicated technology they were questioning. At times, lawmakers relied on slightly clunky metaphors, revealing anecdotes, and corny jokes. Here are some of the oddest instances during Zuckerberg’s testimony in Washington, DC.
Apr 11, 2018
7 takeaways from Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before the House
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made his second of two appearances before Congress on Wednesday, enduring a five-hour session of questions from members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In contrast to their amiably confused counterparts in the Senate, members of the House committee demonstrated a generally better command of how Facebook works and how its efforts to develop richly detailed advertising profiles for billions of people have created privacy concerns around the world.Read Article >
As with yesterday, Facebook sought to promote steps it has already taken to address the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal. But House members spent less time on Cambridge Analytica in favor of asking about a broader range of subjects, including how Facebook tracks people around the web, privacy protections for minors, and Facebook’s consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission.
Shadow profiles are the biggest flaw in Facebook’s privacy defense
Called before Congress this week, Mark Zuckerberg tried to present Facebook’s approach to user data as open and transparent. In question after question, he focused on the privacy choices available to users, and their ownership over all the data they share — and it wasn’t all wrong. Facebook has data because users share it (mostly). Users control that data and can review it or delete it whenever they want (with a few exceptions). And if you delete your account, (almost) all of that data will disappear from Facebook’s servers within 90 days. None of it’s false, but as the parentheses should tell you, it is incomplete — and by the second day of hearings, members of Congress were starting to catch on.Read Article >
The most powerful example came from Rep. Ben Luján (D-NM), who confronted Zuckerberg on the company’s use of shadow profiles — a term for non-user data collection that Zuckerberg was apparently unfamiliar with.
Apr 11, 2018
Republican lawmakers keep grilling Mark Zuckerberg about ‘censoring’ two conservative vloggers
Mark Zuckerberg is facing a lot of questions about Facebook’s policies, most of which involve handling user data. But there’s a running theme on the Republican side of the aisle: Facebook is censoring conservative content, particularly two pro-Trump vloggers who go by the names Diamond and Silk. Multiple legislators have asked about Lynnette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson, who complained that Facebook was limiting the reach of their videos, and were told their videos were “unsafe to the community.” Facebook later told reporters that the email was “inaccurate and not reflective of the way we communicate with our community,” but that hasn’t satisfied lawmakers.Read Article >
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) listed a series of alleged cases of Facebook censorship yesterday, including Diamond and Silk’s complaint. “To a great many Americans, that appears to be a pervasive pattern of political bias,” Cruz said. Zuckerberg denied the allegation but called it a “fair concern,” and Cruz moved on to questions about Palmer Luckey. But more lawmakers brought up the pair the next day. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) started his questioning by reading off a query he got through Facebook, saying he had “dozens” of similar ones. “Please ask Mr. Zuckerberg, why is Facebook censoring conservative bloggers such as Diamond and Silk? Facebook called them ‘unsafe to the community.’ That is ludicrous. They hold conservative views. That isn’t unsafe.”
Congressman presses Zuckerberg on Facebook’s poor diversity record
In today’s hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) decided to take the opportunity to press Mark Zuckerberg on the subject of racial diversity in Silicon Valley.Read Article >
After rebuking him for the Cambridge Analytica data leak, he changed the topic. “I want to go in a different direction today,” he said, with a sudden shift in tone. “You and your team know how I feel about racial diversity in corporate America, and Sheryl Sandberg and I talk about that all the time.”
Zuckerberg says Facebook will extend European data protections worldwide — kind of
In today’s hearing before the House Committee on Commerce and Energy, Mark Zuckerberg stated that the changes Facebook is making in response to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be available worldwide. Zuckerberg made a commitment to not only provide the same privacy controls but making the same kinds of disclosures and treating users’ data the same. The GDPR imposes requirements on how user data is collected, and how user data must be deleted at the user’s request. However, only moments after giving a clear yes, he seemed to equivocate yet again.Read Article >
“Facebook has committed to abiding by [the GDPR] in Europe and you face large penalties if they don’t,” said Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) in the hearing. “In recent days you’ve said that Facebook intends to make the same settings available to users everywhere, not only in Europe. Did I understand correctly that Facebook would not only make the same settings available, but that it will make the same protections available that they will make the Europeans?”
Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Facebook profile was part of the Cambridge Analytica leak
For weeks, Facebook has been struggling with the fallout from a third-party app that leaked 87 million Facebook profiles to the campaign firm Cambridge Analytica — but speaking to a House committee today, Zuckerberg revealed a new personal connection to the breach. Apparently, Zuckerberg himself was one of the many Facebook profiles collected through the app.Read Article >
The revelation came as part of a string of yes-or-no questions from Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-CA), who encouraged Facebook to adopt a more serious approach to data privacy. “Was your data included in the data sold to malicious third parties?” Eshoo asked. “Your personal data?”
Apr 11, 2018
Here’s how much Facebook donated to every lawmaker questioning Mark Zuckerberg this week
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce today, fresh off the heels of a grueling five-hour joint session before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees yesterday. In total, Zuckerberg will face questions from nearly 100 legislators, and many of those legislators have received thousands of dollars from the company Zuckerberg runs.Read Article >
Over the last 12 years, Facebook has spent $7 million in campaign contributions. Historically, Facebook has donated slightly more to Democrats than Republicans, but overall, the platform’s political footprint is small in Washington, DC relative to its market cap, which is currently calculated at about $400 billion. That’s not unusual for technology companies: Amazon spent $4 million in campaign contributions over 20 years, and it has a market cap of nearly $700 billion. (Note, however, that Alphabet, Inc., with a market cap just over Amazon’s, appears to be outspending Facebook in DC by an order of magnitude.)
Apr 11, 2018
Watch Zuckerberg testify before Congress, day 2: start time and live stream
After yesterday’s seemingly endless marathon hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today Mark Zuckerberg heads to the House, where he’ll be answering questions in front of the Energy and Commerce Committee.Read Article >
Yesterday’s session featured almost 50 legislators peppering Zuckerberg with queries about how Facebook safeguards user data, details on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and even questions about what kind of regulations Zuckerberg believes should be put in place to regulate Facebook.
Apr 11, 2018
Read Mark Zuckerberg’s notes from today’s Facebook privacy Senate hearing
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Senate today in a marathon five-hour session about the ongoing Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal. In addition to discussing that situation, and how as many as 87 million users had their information misused by the data mining firm, the conversation also touched on Facebook’s role and responsibility in the world as a news source and a massively influential tool for democracy and communication.Read Article >
While there were few bombshell revelations, Zuckerberg did answer a far-reaching and diverse set of questions ranging from whether Facebook is a monopoly to whether the company would ever consider an ad-free paid version. As part of his appearance on Capitol Hill today, Zuckerberg brought along a thick binder of notes to help him answer questions, stay on his talking points, and come up with quick and relatively innocuous responses to hot-button issues. Thankfully, because there were photojournalists in the room, we have access to a least two pages of those notes.
Zuckerberg shoots down conspiracy theory that Facebook taps your microphone
Suspicions that Facebook (and associated apps like Instagram) are secretly recording audio through phone microphones in order to better target ads have refused to die, despite official denials dating all the way back to 2016. In today’s Senate hearing, Mark Zuckerberg addressed the urban legend yet again, issuing an absolute denial.Read Article >
“Yes or no, does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about users?” asked Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI).
Apr 10, 2018
Mark Zuckerberg says he didn’t fire Palmer Luckey out of anti-conservative bias
As part of his hours-long Senate testimony today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to assure lawmakers that he didn’t fire Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey for his political views. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked Zuckerberg about 2016 reports that the company had removed conservative political news from its trending stories box, and followed up with questions about its moderators’ political views. When Zuckerberg said he didn’t ask employees for their political views, Cruz followed up with “Why was Palmer Luckey fired?”Read Article >
Cruz is responding to a thorny political mini-scandal from 2016, when The Daily Beast reported that Palmer Luckey was secretly funding a pro-Trump political activism group called Nimble America, which was dedicated to the idea that “shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real.” Luckey withdrew from the public eye after the details came out, but it’s never been clear whether he was fired or left voluntarily. He was at Oculus for several months afterward, and “still working in an active capacity” during that time, according to CEO Brendan Iribe.
After Facebook hearing, senators roll out new bill restraining online data use
A new bill from Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ed Markey (D-MA) would place significant new constraints on data collection by Facebook and other online services. Dubbed the CONSENT Act (short for Customer Online Notification for Stopping Edge-provider Network Transgressions), the bill requires explicit opt-in consent from users to use, share, or sell any personal information, as well as clear notification any time data is collected, shared, or used. The bill would also add new security and breach reporting requirements.Read Article >
Crucially, the CONSENT Act relies on the Federal Trade Commission to enforce any violations of those new rules. If the bill passes, the result would be a significant expansion of the commission’s power and role in online advertising more broadly. The commission is already expected to take action against Facebook in response to a 2011 consent decree, which many believe the Cambridge Analytica data collection may have violated.
Zuckerberg struggles to name a single Facebook competitor
In Zuckerberg’s testimony before a joint session between the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees today, the Facebook CEO was forced to confront whether his company was now effectively a monopoly. Concerns about Facebook’s monopoly status have surfaced over the last year, with growing calls to break up the company. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) first brought up the monopoly issue; later, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) noted that regulation “can cement the dominant power,” implying that in this case, Facebook is that dominant power.Read Article >
“Who’s your biggest competitor?” Graham asked Zuckerberg. The CEO struggled to answer the question, naming Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft as “overlap[ing]” with Facebook in different ways.
Mark Zuckerberg isn’t ruling out a paid version of Facebook
Like most things on the internet, Facebook has always been free to users, supported by targeted advertising. But as concerns have grown over data collection, many users have expressed interest in a paid, ad-free version of Facebook — and Mark Zuckerberg may not be opposed to the idea.Read Article >
In a testimony before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees today, Zuckerberg seemed to leave open the possibility of a paid version of Facebook. The line of questioning came from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who recalled meeting Zuckerberg in 2010 as part of the Senate Republican High Tech Task Force. “You said back then that Facebook would always be free,” Hatch said to Zuckerberg. “Is that still your objective?”
Facebook-backed lawmakers are pushing to gut privacy law
As Zuckerberg prepares to testify before Congress, Facebook is quietly fighting a crucial privacy measure in the Illinois Statehouse. Starting tomorrow, state legislators will consider a new amendment to the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) that could neuter one of the strongest privacy laws in the US, giving Facebook free rein to run facial recognition scans without users’ consent.Read Article >
For years, Facebook has been battling a lawsuit based on BIPA, which required explicit consent before companies can collect biometric data like fingerprints or facial recognition profiles. According to the plaintiffs, Facebook’s photo-tagging system violates that law, identifying faces in uploaded photos with no clear notice or consent. (Similar lawsuits have also been filed against Google and Snapchat.) Facebook added a more explicit consent provision earlier this year, but the lawsuit has continued on the basis of the earlier collection.
Apr 10, 2018
Watch Zuckerberg testify before Congress, day 1
Today, Mark Zuckerberg will testify in the first of two widely anticipated hearings before Congress. The first hearing, scheduled for later today at 2:15PM ET, will take place before a joint session of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.Read Article >
This isn’t the first time Facebook has been forced to testify about the vulnerabilities of its platform before Congress: in October, Facebook, along with Google and Twitter, were asked to account for how their networks were used by foreign agents to influence the 2016 election. Zuckerberg was spared from the grilling, though, and Facebook got away with simply sending the company’s top lawyer to DC.
Apr 9, 2018
Mark Zuckerberg is heading to Congress, and the stakes couldn’t be higher
After 18 months of cascading scandals and under mounting pressure to address data privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress for the first time this week. On Tuesday, the Facebook CEO will appear before a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees. The next day, he’ll face the House Energy and Commerce Committee.Read Article >
In a prepared testimony, Zuckerberg apologizes for neglecting to address abuses of the platform, including fake news, the 2016 Russian misinformation campaign, hate speech, and data leaks. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” he said in his prepared remarks. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
Apr 9, 2018
Mark Zuckerberg’s Wednesday congressional hearing testimony is now online
Mark Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony for Wednesday’s congressional hearing has been posted online. The seven-page statement starts with an apology from Zuckerberg, who says Facebook failed to take a broad enough view of its responsibilities. “That was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” he says. “I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”Read Article >
Zuckerberg will be testifying before the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday after he faces another hearing in the Senate on Tuesday. This testimony covers a lot of familiar ground, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the Russia-linked Internet Research Agency’s misinformation campaign. As Josh Constine at TechCrunch points out, it does offer some new information about the Russia-linked APT28 hacking group. Facebook says it detected and shut down accounts related to APT28 over the summer of 2016.