Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the Political Spotlight

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the Political Spotlight

The Facebook CEO faces questioning from congress over recent scandals.

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a US House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing about Facebook on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Mark Zuckerberg faces one of the toughest tests of his career this week as the founder and CEO of Facebook testifies in two congressional hearings regarding the recent scandals to have afflicted the social media giant involving the 2016 US election.

Zuckerberg will face a joint session of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committees Tuesday, and a House Committee Wednesday.

Facebook, along with Google and Twitter, was previously grilled over its role in allowing foreign agents to manipulate its platform ahead of the 2016 election in October, yet Zuckerberg did not personally attend the hearings.

Nevertheless, the past six months have only brought further controversies for the company. Last month, an investigation by Channel 4 in the UK revealed that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked on Donald Trump’s victorious campaign, had acquired user data from Facebook, seriously harming its reputation for protecting users’ privacy and leading to a #deletefacebook campaign on other social media sites.

The “huge mistake”

The 33-year-old billionaire admitted publicly last week he had made a “huge mistake” in not focusing more on potential abuse of user data, and had been “too flippant” when he dismissed the threat of fake news shortly after the 2016 election. Yet according to the Wall Street Journal, the hearings will likely test the famously introverted CEO, requiring him to deliver off-the-cuff responses instead of the tightly scripted public appearances to which he is accustomed.

Yet there is also the possibility that lawmakers will be reluctant to probe Facebook too deeply. The company spent $11.5 million in lobbying last year alone and was a major underwriter of the presidential conventions in Philadelphia and Cleveland.

Details of Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony were released Monday. He plans to stress the original mission of the company to connect people through an online community.

“My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together,” he will say. “Advertisers and developers will never take priority over that as long as I’m running Facebook.”

However, he will also concede, “it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.”

2018-04-16T15:00:21+00:00

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Paul Imison
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