Mark Zuckerberg Testimony: 5 Key Takeaways From Day 1

Zuckerberg Faces Senate in First Day of Facebook Testimony

The Cambridge Analytica Scandal reached a climactic new high yesterday with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony. Zuckerberg faced a nearly five hour grilling from skeptical Senate judiciaries and Commerce committees over the company’s severe misuse of user data and privacy. He also faced attacks in relation to Facebook’s inability to halt Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.

Multiple senators from both political parties agreed that Facebook may need more stringent government regulation. Many of them were openly aggressive in their accusations, with Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin asking Zuckerberg, “would you feel comfortable sharing the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?” as a way to make a point about user privacy. Zuckerberg seemed a bit flustered as he responded, “No.”

Zuckerberg was well coached and was accompanied by a team of top legal and policy executives. Despite deflecting some questions and haphazardly answering others, he was never defensive and showed a strong willingness to cooperate with the senators, some of whom were more tech savvy than others. The lengthy testimony had moments of redundancy but there were particularly combative and revealing conversations that spawned out of the hearing.

Potential Impact of Hearing

Today, Zuckerberg will testify in front of House lawmakers and it’s likely that they will take note of yesterday’s questions and hit on topics that Zuckerberg didn’t answer fully the first time.

For the past several months, the Cambridge Analytica Scandal has sent Facebook into a damage control frenzy. Once news broke out that Cambridge Analytica had somehow gotten their hands on the personal data of over fifty million Facebook users and used that data on behalf of Trump’s presidential campaign, Zuckerberg embarked on an extensive apology tour which included a purchase of a full page apology ad in the New York Times.

The stakes are high for Zuckerberg’s Congressional hearings. If all goes well, Zuckerberg could gain some sympathy, slow down the momentum of the #deletefacebook movement, and ensure a viable future for the world’s largest social media company.

Zuckerberg’s second day of testimony is currently underway and we will be bringing you those key highlights soon.

5 Takeaways from Zuckerberg’s First Day of Congressional Hearings

  1. Zuckerberg Insists that Facebook Doesn’t Have a Monopoly

    •  When South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked Zuckerberg, “which company is your biggest competitor,” Zuckerberg seemed taken aback. His initial response was, “Senator, we have a lot of competitors,” which didn’t seem to satisfy Graham in the slightest. The senator assumed a more combative role as he continued to grill Zuckerberg over the clear cut question. Eventually, Zuckerberg reluctantly spouted out the names Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft.
    • When asked if he thought Facebook had a monopoly, he said no, resulting in many disapproving glances from the crowd.  Later, Graham asked Zuckerberg if he thought it was a good idea for Facebook to self regulate. Zuckerberg started to deflect but he eventually agreed to work with the government regarding what regulations would be necessary in the industry.
    • This dialogue is evidence that Graham, and many other senators, believe that Facebook has a monopoly and that it is in dire need of regulation.
  2. Facebook is Working with Mueller

    • Zuckerberg revealed to Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont that Facebook is working with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He stated firmly that he could not reveal any further information due to the confidentiality of the investigation and Sen. Leahy was fine with that. Zuckerberg said that he had not personally been questioned by Mueller’s team but that other Facebook team members had.
  3.  Paid Version of Facebook

    • Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told NBC News a few weeks ago that a paid version of Facebook would be the only way users could opt out of having their data used for advertising purposes. Mark Zuckerberg clarified her statements yesterday by saying that there would always been a free version of Facebook. He did not however, say that a paid version of Facebook would be out of the question.
  4. Senator John Kennedy tells Zuckerberg “your user agreement sucks”

    • Republication Senator John Kennedy delivered what might have been the most frank statement of the day. He stated,

      “Here’s what everyone’s been trying to tell you today — and I say it gently — your user agreement sucks, the purpose of a user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end, not inform users of their rights.”

      The blunt statement had the crowd erupting in laughter. John Kennedy also told Zuckerberg, “Tell your 1200 dollar an hour lawyers no disrespect, they’re good, but tell them you want it written in English, in non-Swahili, so the average American can understand. That would be a start.”

  5. Zuckerberg Confirms Facebook is a Tech Company

    • Zuckerberg seemingly ended the long debate over whether or not Facebook should be classified as a publisher or a tech company. Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska asked him what he would class it as and Zuckerberg said, “The answer to that, I think, is clearly yes, but I don’t think that’s incompatible with fundamentally, at our core, being a technology company where the main thing we do is have engineers and build products.”
    • Zuckerberg also defended the use of ads on Facebook by telling Sullivan, “Although people don’t like ads, people really don’t like ads that aren’t relevant.” Dan Sullivan’s full questioning is just below.

What Zuckerberg’s Testimony Means for Marketers

Clearly the focal point of Zuckerberg’s testimony was about how to best avoid further data breaches and protect user privacy, but several moments of the testimony gave us some insight into how Facebook will evolve as an advertising platform. In the wake of Cambridge Analytica and the fake news crisis that dominated headlines during the presidential election, Facebook has gotten stricter regarding their ad policies, with several new measures being implemented.

For example, Zuckerberg stated late last year that we would be seeing less branded content on our news feeds. Back in February, Facebook announced that they would be cracking down on cryptocurrency ads to help deter instances of ‘cryptojacking.’

More recently, Zuckerberg announced that in order to buy or issue political ads, marketers would have to verify their identity and location. This announcement is unsurprising considering the intense backlash Facebook received regarding their handling of fake news during the 2016 presidential election. Facebook also has plans to streamline privacy settings.

These new implementations are generally positive for the general population, but they have forced marketers to jump through several new hoops just to get their Facebook campaigns up and running.

Advertising on Facebook is still a viable method of outreach in spite of all the new changes and policies. Quality over quantity is still the game and if we want to survive in the new age of Facebook, we will have to be more careful with our promoted content and ensure that it is less spammy and more impactful.

Let us know your favorite testimony moments in the comments below and be sure to tell us if you still think Facebook is a good platform for paid promotions




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