Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told skeptical members of the U.S. Congress he’d welcome regulation of his beleaguered social media platform, “if it’s the right regulation.”
Wearing an ill-fitting suit and appearing ill at ease, Zuckerberg yesterday testified before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Commerce Committee. On Wednesday, Zuckerberg will be grilled by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The multibillionaire founder of Facebook was forced to testify before Congress in the wake of the incredible fiasco that is Cambridge Analytica. This British political consultancy firm and its subsidiary, SCL, worked for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Both firms harvested data on 87 million Facebook users (at last count), and kept it despite promises to Facebook they deleted the information. In 2015, Facebook learned that Dr. Aleksandr Kogan (who requested access to the data) lied to Facebook and violated its Platform Policies by passing data to SCL/Cambridge Analytica from an app that was using a Facebook Login.
SCL/Cambridge Analytica is a firm that does political, government and military work around the globe. Dr. Kogan also passed that data to Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc. Facebook admitted it knew about SCL/Cambridge Analytica’s data harvesting for two years but only acted on it last month (March). Facebook also has to answer for its role in wilfully abetting Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked Zuckerberg why Congress should let Facebook self-regulate in light of the vast damage inflicted on users’ privacy by SCL/Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of data.
“My position is not there should be no regulation” said Zuckerberg. “I think the real question is … What is the right regulation? We welcome regulation if it’s the right regulation.”
Zuckerberg apologized profusely for the SCL/Cambridge Analytica flap, and sought to reassure lawmakers, investors, advertisers and Facebook’s 2.2 billion users the social network can be trusted with their data.
“My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together,” said Zuckerberg. “Advertisers and developers will never take priority over that as long as I’m running Facebook.”
Zuckerberg admitted Facebook had made many mistakes in the past. He told senators the social network is “going through a broader philosophical shift.” He noted that Facebook’s policies have largely been reactive, meaning that users must first complain about content or posts before Facebook takes action. Zuckerberg said this policy has to change.
A number of advertisers have already ditched Facebook, and some users started a #DeleteFacebook campaign on Twitter. Tesla CEO Elon Musk deleted Facebook pages for Tesla and SpaceX, and said the social network gives him “the willies.”
“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm,” said Zuckerberg. “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.”
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