Mark Zuckerberg Testimony: Highlights from Day Two

Zuckerberg Faces Another Round of Aggressive Grilling

Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony or #Zuckerbowl, as it’s been affectionately named on Twitter, propelled into it’s second and final day yesterday.  Zuckerberg received a more abrasive grilling from Congressional House leaders and he suggested follow ups at a much higher rate than he did yesterday. Congressional House leaders were hard pressed for information regarding Facebook’s user data misuse in the wake of Cambridge Analytica transgressions and they weren’t taking names.

This time around, Zuckerberg was more deflective in his responses and, on the other side of the chamber, the bipartisanship displayed during Tuesday’s hearing had all but dissipated. Early on, New Jersey representative Mr. Frank Pallone took a jab at the Republican party by saying,

“Republicans here in Congress continue to block or even repeal the few privacy protections we have. In this era of nonstop data breaches, last year Republicans eliminated existing privacy and data security protections at the FCC.”

Pallone admitted that his comments addressed towards the Republican party sounded critical and pessimistic but that he was frustrated over the lack of solutions forged in hearings. Pallone’s opening comments set an overall tone for the oncoming hearing that was less cordial and more combative.

The House Gets Heated

About two hours into the hearing, Republicans had drifted off course and began to grill Zuckerberg and Facebook for supposedly suppressing conservative free speech. Zuckerberg found himself caught in the middle of two simultaneous hearings, one for the data breaches and another for conservative freedom of thought.

Naturally, the Facebook CEO struggled to stay on script as Republican congress leaders continued to accuse him of anti-conservative bias, particularly in relation to Diamond and Silk. Despite these divergences, including a particularly awkward grilling by Missouri Republican Billy Long (see below) Zuckerberg did reveal some interesting information regarding Cambridge Analytica and we have a clearer view of where Facebook may be headed in the wake of all these controversies.

5 Takeaways from Zuckerberg Hearing Day Two

  1. Zuckerberg’s Data was Stolen by Cambridge Analytica

    • In an attempt to gain empathy from congressional leaders, Zuckerberg admitted that he was also a victim of the Cambridge Analytica data breach but chose not to elaborate. A few days ago, Facebook made it possible for users to check whether or not their data had been stolen by adding a new feature visible at the top of the news feed.
  2. The House Energy and Commerce Committee Brought Up Regulation

    • On Tuesday, multiple Senators agreed that Facebook needed government regulation and Zuckerberg agreed to work with them. Yesterday, the House brought up regulation again. Representative Raul Ruiz of California asked Zuckerberg why he didn’t notify the Federal Trade Commission as soon as he learned data was being misused. He also suggested that perhaps there is a need for some kind of “digital consumer protection agency.” Zuckerberg seemed to agree and said, again, that he’d be willing to work with the government on this matter.
  3. Facebook is Investigating Cambridge Analytica

    • Congressman Eliot Engel invited Zuckerberg to comment on whether or not he would taking measures to sue Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg responded, “It’s something that we’re looking into, We already took action by banning [Kogan] from the platform and we’re going to be doing a full audit to make sure he gets rid of all the data that he has as well.”
  4. Facebook Will Deploy AI Tools to Prevent Interference in Future Elections

    • The spread of Russian-linked misinformation during the 2016 election was a heated topic during both days of Zuckerberg’s hearing. On the first day, Zuckerberg told the Senate that he would be working with the government to help curb instances of misinformation in the future. Yesterday, in response to Texas Representative Olson, Zuckerberg stated,

      “One thing that I think is important to understand overall is the sheer volume of content on Facebook makes it so no amount of people that we can hire will be enough to review all of the content. We need to rely on and build sophisticated AI tools that can help us flag certain content. We’re getting good in certain areas. Terrorist content for example, we now have AI systems that can identify and take down 99% of the Al Qaueda and ISIS related content in our system before a human even flags it to us. I think we need to do more of them.”

    • We need to rely on and build AI tools to help flag certain content
  5. Mark Zuckerberg Refuses to Give “one-word answers”

    1. Representative Pallone cut straight to the point when he asked Zuckerberg if Facebook would commit to changing its default settings to minimize data collection “to the greatest extent possible.” Pallone asked Zuckerberg to give him a yes or no answer but Zuckerberg refused. He stated, “this is a complex issue that deserves more than a one-word answer.” The CEO did reveal that Facebook occasionally takes data from people who have not signed up to the platform for security reasons.

Zuckerberg Ends Testimonies Unscathed

After a rough, and sometimes heated, ten hours of questioning, Zuckerbowl has officially come to an end. There may not be a clear winner but Zuckerberg has shown a strong willingness to cooperate with the government and congress leaders had a (mostly) cordial attitude towards his responses.

One concerning aspect of the hearing is that many congressmen and women demonstrated little knowledge on the way Facebook works. This could be a problem once regulatory discussions begin. Technology is evolving fast and if our congressional leaders want to impose regulations on Facebook, they need to be fluent in the world of social.

Zuckerberg did deflect in certain instances and he certainly has a lot of following up to do, but in general, we have a much clearer idea on how Facebook is planning to avoid future cases of data breaches.

Check out our recap of day one and share your thoughts in the comments below.

Do you think Facebook should be regulated? 

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