Closed Mark Zuckerberg testifies – day 2: as it happened

CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House of Representatives House Energy and Commerce Committee

Mark Zuckerberg goes back to Capitol Hill for his second day of testimony before the Energy and Commerce Committee. The FT’s technology team Richard Waters and Hannah Kuchler, and DC correspondent Barney Jopson, who is in the hearing room, deliver the blow-by-blow.


Welcome back to the FT’s live coverage of the Facebook chief executive’s two days of testimony before Congress.

Here’s a round-up of yesterday’s coverage:
- Mark Zuckerberg opened his hearing with another apology.
- You can read the blow by blow account of five hours of testimonyhere.
- Or you can read the news story on Zuckerberg facing off with lawmakers over regulation here.
- John Thornhill writes a comment piece about Zuck’s ‘light grilling’ here.
- And Richard Waters and I wrote about how he pulled off his acrobatic tricks at the congressional circus here.


Today could be a repeat of the same somewhat questionable questions from Congressmen and women who do not have a great grasp of the details of how data flows through Facebook (few do). Or it could see a harder push around a more coherent vision of regulation for social media.

Mark Zuckerberg remained composed throughout yesterday but his patience may be tested if he gets the same questions for another four hours today.


As a standard practice, Zuckerberg has been asked to attach his curriculum vitae to the form he has submitted to the committee ahead of his testimony.

It’s probably the first time anyone has asked him for that in over a decade – and it is quite short:

“Mark is the founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook, which he founded in 2004. Mark is responsible for setting the overall direction and product strategy for the company. He leads the design of Facebook’s service and development of its core technology and infrastructure. Mark studied computer science at Harvard University before moving the company to Palo Alto, California.”

No mention of fighting Russian trolls or user privacy – or even advertising.


The House committee chairman Greg Walden is now beginning his opening statement.


One congressional aide predicts House lawmakers will be more aggressive than their Senate counterparts were yesterday — and says they’ll have noted how some senators were mocked overnight for an apparent lack of tech savvy. “This is a younger group of people,” the aide says.


Greg Walden (R) from Oregon kicks off by welcoming Zuckerberg.

He says he has called him there to discuss the “alarming reports” of “breaches of trusts” between Facebook, one of the biggest and most powerful companies in world, and its users. The second reason is to widen the lens to look at tech company’s relationship with their users overall.

Walden asks important questions: should Congress regulate who owns data? Do so-called edge providers – internet companies that are not ISPs – need federal supervision? And perhaps most importantly, what is Facebook?

He says he hopes for “deep introspection” from Zuckerberg and clarity about how the company uses personal data. He said he feared Facebook may have grown but not yet matured.


Frank Pallone, the ranking Democrat on the committee, gives his opening statement. He points out that Facebook has become a pervasive tool in our lives – and “this ubiquity comes with a price”.

He goes quickly from a description of the Cambridge Analytica data leak to an attack on “the latest in a never-ending string of companies that vacuum up our data and fail to keep it safe” – and the failure of Republicans and the Federal Trade Commission to do anything about it.

He wants hearings on other internet companies, data brokers, and anyone else who collects data. But he ends with an admission that he feels pretty pessimistic about anything coming out of this process:

If all we do is have a hearing and nothing happens, then that’s not accomplishing anything.


Zuckerberg will give an opening statement – its the same one as yesterday.

Read it here.

He starts by saying yet again that Facebook is an “idealistic and optimistic company”. Interestingly, he held back from his usual preaching about mission and community yesterday during his testimony. Perhaps he and his team feared it could look arrogant. He might not have quite pulled off humble yesterday but he did not seem arrogant.


The tech press is concerned that Zuckerberg looks tired today. I think they might be projecting.

https://twitter.com/ShiraOvide/status/984071151302430721

https://twitter.com/jguynn/status/984071854578024448


Walden starts the questions. Why wasn’t explaining what Facebook does with user data a higher priority?

Zuckerberg makes this sound almost like a PR problem: “I do think we can do a better job of explaining how advertising works.” He says he spends a lot of time explaining that Facebook doesn’t “sell user data to advertisers”, and the company could do that better.

This is starting off exactly where the Senate committees yesterday left off: fencing around what Facebook does with user data and how transparent it is.


Pallone, the top committee Democrat, quickly takes a tougher line than many senators yesterday, pressing Zuckerberg to make a clear commitment to change all Facebook’s default settings to minimize the possible collection of personal data.

The Facebook founder declined to give a simple response, saying: “Congressman, this is a complex issue that I think deserves more than a one word answer.”

Pallone replies: “That’s disappointing to me.”


We’re only three questioners in but there’s already a heavy echo of yesterday. Joe Barton (R) is jumping in just where senator Ted Cruz left off: asking why Facebook banned Diamond and Silk, two women with strong pro-Trump views. Zuckerberg says this was a mistake and Facebook is fixing it.

Then Barton defaults to what is becoming a familiar line of criticism, that Facebook’s privacy controls are too complicated. “I actually use Facebook. I know if you take your time you can go to your privacy and click on that.”


Fred Upton (R) flags a Republican concern that was apparent in the Senate as well: Don’t regulations just protect incumbents like Facebook and hurt startups?

Zuckerberg: “I think it is inevitable that there will need to be some regulation”. But yes, he agrees, regulation can end up help companies like his that have a lot of resources.


Frank Pallone from New Jersey is definitely tired. He starts his questions to Zuckerberg while rubbing eyes.

He says he is not as “positive and optimistic” as Zuckerberg. “I do not have much faith in Corporate America and your GOP allies here in Congress,” he says. That must sting for Zuckerberg from hardcore Democratic Silicon Valley.


Pallone has some serious questions, his staff have clearly looked closely at what Facebook has announced so far. He asks if Facebook itself is limiting the amount of data it collects on users. Most of the announcements so far have focused on how much data third parties can access – not what Facebook holds to help sell adverts.

He asks if Facebook is changing any of the user default settings to be more privacy protected? Zuckerberg says yes, but refers again to developers’ access to data.

The real showdown comes when Pallone asks if he will commit to minimise to the greatest extent possible the collection and use of users’ data? Zuckerberg refuses to give a yes/no answer saying it is a “complex issue” that deserves more than a one word answer. Of course, if Facebook limited its data collection to the greatest extent possible it would hit its bottom line.


And now the speed round. Anna Eshoo (D) says she has a list of yes/no questions.
Sample question: Do you think you have a moral responsibility to run a platform that protects our democracy?

Zuckerberg (pauses): Congresswoman, yes (that’s two words)

It’s a brave attempt to get direct answers but it doesn’t last.

Question: Are you willing to change your business model in the interests of protecting privacy?

Answer: Congresswoman, I’m not sure what that means.


Anna Eshoo, who is a Silicon Valley lawmaker, doesn’t follow up when Zuckerberg says he doesn’t understand what it would mean to change Facebook’s business model to protect privacy.

The obvious answer is that it would mean Facebook collecting less personal data itself or opening up its advertising systems to public scrutiny, which would threaten both its profits and commercial secrets.


John Shimkus, a Republican from Illinois, asks what triggered the update that restricted data access to third party developers? This change was announced in 2014 and was fully implemented a year later.

Zuckerberg said he realised there was abuse of the system and so they changed how the platform works. It stopped allowing users to expose their friends’ data.

The obvious next question is: if there was abuse, why did they wait a year to implement?

Some people suspect the change was more about how Facebook was changing as a company, from a platform to an advertising-based model, and so it wasn’t financially wise to share so much data, a valuable resource to help sell adverts.


The Verge has looked at how much Facebook has donated to each of the Senators and House members on these committees. The Senators who received the most – Kamala Harris and Cory Booker – cannot be said to have gone soft on Zuckerberg yesterday.


Answering questions from Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, Zuckerberg challenges the reputation of Cambridge University, one of the UK’s best-known academic and research institutions and home to Aleksandr Kogan, who created the “This Is Your Digital Life” app that siphoned data to Cambridge Analytica.

But there were others too, says Zuckerberg.

“We found there is a whole programme associated with Cambridge University… a number of other researchers were building similar apps,” he says.

“We do need to understand whether there is something bad going on at Cambridge University overall that will require a stronger action from us.”


Michael Burgess, a Republican from Texas, puts a prop on a screen: a Dilbert cartoon about someone who doesn’t look at the license agreement on the shrink wrapping of his new software and ends up as Bill Gates’ towel boy.

It sets the scene for some questions about Facebook’s hard-to-understand terms of service.


Zuckerberg says he views Facebook’s responsibility as not just legally complying – but helping people understand what they are sharing. But he is focusing on the content people actually share – posts or photos – rather than the data they give away by accident, such as what they read, their connections, and their activity around the web.


Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, holds up fat wads of paper that are compliance documents for privacy in other industries such as healthcare. She says a constituent was “stunned” that there was no similar regulation for Facebook.

Blackburn wants Zuckerberg to commit to supporting the Browser Act, a bipartisan bill she’s backed that has consent requirements similar to the European GDPR. Zuckerberg says he’s not familiar with the details – avoiding yet again committing to specific regulation.

Then she asks: Do you subjectively manipulate your algorithms to prioritise or censor speech? Zuckerberg says: “We don’t think about what we’re doing as censoring speech.”

But he adds they do remove terrorist content. Blackburn finishes by referring to video bloggers who were told their pro-Trump videos were “unsafe”. “Diamond and Silk are not terrorism,” Blackburn said.

Here’s a story from the Washington Post on Diamond and Silk.


Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, gives Zuckerberg a rough ride over what she sees as an imbalance between Facebook’s financial might and the lack of monetary penalties for privacy breaches.

She asks about two class-action lawsuits related to privacy from seven or eight years ago that Zuckerberg does not remember.

Then she moves on to the FTC investigation in 2011. “Do you know about that one?”
“The FTC investigation? Yes.”

But he does not recall whether there was any fine associated with it. “You’re the CEO of the company, you entered in to the consent decree and you don’t remember if there was a financial penalty?” she says. (There wasn’t, at least in 2011.)

“We continue to have these abuses and these data breaches but at the same time it doesn’t seem like future activities are prevented. One of the things we need to look at in the future… is putting really robust penalties in place in case of improper actions.”


Steve Scalise, a former computer programmer and Republican House whip from Louisiana, asks an important question on whether the data Facebook collects as you go around the web is just for security reasons, as Zuckerberg said yesterday, or for advertising too?

Zuckerberg, as he has with many technical questions, says he will follow up.

Scalise also asks if there is an anti-conservative bias in the people creating Facebook algorithms. He will follow up on that too.

This became a meme during yesterday’s hearings.

https://twitter.com/ZuckerbergMemes/status/983792401771835392?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thrillist.com%2Fnews%2Fnation%2Fmark-zuckerberg-testimony-twitter-reacts&tfw_site=Thrillist


Another bruising encounter. Mike Doyle, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, accuses Facebook of “turning a blind eye” to developers’ abuses because it was more concerned with attracting apps to its platform than protecting users.

“There is a real trust gap here. This developer data issue is just one example. Why should we trust you to follow through on these promises?”

Zuckerberg replies: “Respectfully I disagree with that characterisation. We’ve had a review process for apps for years. We’ve reviewed tens of thousands of apps a year.”

But as his allotted four minutes expire, Doyle doesn’t allow him to finish. He ends by calling for legislation to create a “sufficiently expert oversight agency” to police Facebook and companies like it, because they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves.


Bob Latta, Republican from Ohio, starts by asking if the Russians or the Chinese had scraped the entire social network? Facebook recently said that it thought the majority of people’s public data, such as names and emails, had been scraped. Zuckerberg said there was no evidence this was done by the Russians or Chinese.

He then asks how long it will take to audit tens of thousands of apps that had access to too much data? Zuckerberg says it will take months and cost lots of money. (Don’t worry, Facebook has lots of money).

This is important: the audits, part of the FTC agreement, have not found significant problems with privacy at the company. So I would then ask, are the audits good enough? Latta has not asked this.

Read more about how the FTC had vowed to hold Facebook to account on privacy here. The US regulator’s reputation could be at stake.


Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington state, is pursuing a claim popular with the Republicans: that Facebook censors right wing content. Some are frustrated with this line, given one of the main concerns about Facebook is how it allows people to wallow in their own filter bubble.

https://twitter.com/MelissaRyan/status/984087873736658944

Zuckerberg says he’s worried he’s not doing a good enough job at defining community standards right now. This is what he spoke about in his recent interview with Vox, exploring the idea of a supreme court for Facebook. McMorris Rodgers does not follow up on what he means by rethinking community standards for different parts of the world.


As the testimony continues, questions over Zuckerberg’s leadership linger.

https://twitter.com/antoniogm/status/984087363688087554

Last week Scott Stringer, who oversees New York City’s pension fund investments, joined the chorus, calling for Facebook to appoint a new chairman.


GK Butterfield of North Carolina presses Zuckerberg to “right a wrong” on data privacy but quickly moves on to asking for a series of commitments to improving diversity in the tech industry.

Will Zuckerberg “personally” convene a meeting for tech CEOs to develop a strategy to increase racial diversity in the technology industry?

“I think that’s a good idea and we should follow up on it.”

Can he improve the numbers on Facebook’s top leadership team to be more diverse? Butterfield waves a printout of Facebook’s website showing its top five executives, who are all white.

“We have a broader leadership than just five people…”

“We can do better than that, Mr Zuckerberg.”

Does he plan to add an African American to his leadership team in the near future?”

“We will certainly work with you, this is an important issue.”

Will he commit to reporting retention data for employees by race in its diversity update?

“I will go discuss that with my team.”


Gregg Harper, a Republican from Mississippi, asks whether, if Cambridge Analytica built the survey app themselves, they would have had access to the data it bought from Kogan? Zuckerberg says yes.

Harper is trying to draw a parallel between Cambridge Analytica and the work of the Obama campaign in 2012. Zuckerberg says the big difference is that Kogan violated Facebook policies and violated people’s expectations. People knew they were using an app that collected data for Obama.

But there is an interesting point hidden in here that the Congressman is not probing: Cambridge Analytica could not have created the app because the policies for new apps in 2014 would have stopped them accessing data from users’ friends. Kogan was able to access it because he had an existing app that collected the data – and the rules for existing apps did not change until 2015.


Zuckerberg keeps repeating that he believes people own their own data, but he seems to highlight a big loophole in this idea with an answer to Doris Matsui (D).

“Where this gets complicated is if I take a photo and share it with you, is that my photo or your photo? I would say that it’s our photo,” Zuckerberg says.


On the issue of suppressing conservative thought on Facebook, it is worth pointing out that Fox News is the third most popular news outlet on the social network:

https://twitter.com/JasonAbbruzzese/status/984092794586324994

And many conservative-leaning reporters have very large followings.

https://twitter.com/oneunderscore__/status/984094374022860800


We’re now breaking briefly, almost two hours in.

If you’re just joining now, you can watch the FT live stream of the testimony here.


We’re back. Leonard Lance, a Republican from New Jersey, says he is “deeply offended” by inappropriate censoring of content by Facebook and would be offended if it was on the left or the right. Zuckerberg says yes, they have made mistakes with taking down left wing content too.

Lance’s questions follow familiar lines: could they endorse the Browser Act? (Zuck says he’ll follow up) Did they get the balance wrong on privacy? (Zuck says yes) Do they believe the action violates the consent agreement with the FTC? Zuck says no, again.

But Lance disagrees: I think it may have violated the agreement, he says.


Brett Guthrie, Kentucky representative, is playing nice with Zuckerberg, telling him he loves the (somewhat spooky) ads based on what he searches on. It is convenient to get an ad about a hotel in Florida rather than somewhere else he wasn’t planning to go, he says.

Then he asked what would be the impact on the internet if there wasn’t targeted ads? Zuckerberg says ads would be less relevant, small businesses would have to pay far more money for ads, because they could not only target a small audience.


Florida Democrat Kathy Castor keeps up the pressure on Zuckerberg. Today’s session is shaping up to be a lot tougher for Zuckerberg than Tuesday’s.

“A devil’s bargain has been struck,” Castor begins. “Americans do not like to be manipulated, we do not like to be spied on… Facebook now has evolved to a place where you are tracking everyone. You are collecting data on just about everybody… I don’t think the average American really understands that.”

Zuckerberg is barely given a chance to respond. “Broadly I disagree with your characterisation…” he begins.

“You watch where we go. Isn’t that correct?” she responds, alluding to yesterday’s question that Zuckerberg refused to answer about which hotel he was staying in.

“Everyone has control over how that works,” he protests.

“Are you saying you don’t gather data on where people travel?”

Then the back and forth moves to data brokers. Zuckerberg says that Facebook stopped working with third-party data aggregators two weeks ago but again is cut off.

“It’s practically impossible these days to remain untracked in America. And that’s not part of the bargain.” The law has not evolved and “congress should act”, she concludes.

Zuckerberg is saved by the four-minute time limit and it’s on to the next one.


Another aggressive line of questioning from John Sarbanes, a Democrat from Maryland, raises the issue of whether “embedded” Facebook ad sales staff in the Trump and Clinton election campaigns might have broken campaign finance rules.

The Trump campaign had about 90 times as many ads approved as Clinton, Sarbanes says. “I’m worried the embeds may have helped to facilitate that.”

“We apply the same standard to all campaigns,” Zuckerberg responds.
Sarbanes is concerned that what Zuckerberg describes as “sales support” could be deemed as an “in-kind corporate contribution”, breaking campaign finance laws.

“That embed programme has a potential for Facebook to solicit favour from policy makers. That has the potential to create a real conflict of interest.”

Sarbanes continues: “Facebook is becoming a self-regulated superstructure for political discourse. Are we the American people going to regulate the political dialogue or are you, Mark Zuckerberg?”


Pete Olson, a Republican from Texas, refers back to a psychology experiment Facebook did in 2012, which looked at whether Facebook could change people’s emotions on the platform. It was very controversial at the time- as we wrote about here but it hasn’t come up much since the Cambridge Analytica revelations.

Zuckerberg said at the time they were investigating whether Facebook could affect people’s moods because they were worried it could be bad. But recent work shows that if people interact with close friends and family on the platform, it is good for them. That’s one of the reasons Facebook is prioritising content from friends rather than pages and businesses.


Representative Jerry McNerney, a Democrat from California, goes back to data protection and asks when Facebook will bring GDPR protections to the rest of the world.

“I don’t have the exact date,” says Zuckerberg.

So it won’t be on May 25, when the rules come into force in Europe?

“We are working on it… Regardless of the laws that are in place, we have a very strong incentive to protect people’s information.”

But McNerney isn’t convinced. “I hear you saying this but the history isn’t there. We need to make sure regulation is in place to give you the motivation to stay in line with data protection.”

He also wants Facebook to change its management structure to focus less on growth and more on protections for users. “Privacy and security don’t have the right level of profile in Facebook to get your attention [and] to make sure they get the proper attention and resources.”


Here’s a round up of what has happened so far:

• Lawmakers in the House have been tougher on Zuckerberg than the Senators were the day before – and showed a better understanding of how Facebook worked.

Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania (D) accused Facebook of “turning a blind eye” to developers’ abuses and Kathy Castor of Florida (D) said Facebook users had struck a “devil’s bargain”, without understanding it.

John Sarbanes (D) from Maryland said: “Facebook is becoming a self-regulated superstructure for political discourse. Are we the American people going to regulate the political dialogue or are you, Mark Zuckerberg?”

• Frank Pallone (D) asked Zuckerberg to make a clear commitment to change all Facebook’s default settings to minimise the possible collection of personal data.

The Facebook founder declined to give a simple response, saying: “Congressman, this is a complex issue that I think deserves more than a one word answer.” Mr Pallone replied: “That’s disappointing to me.”

• Anna Eshoo, a Silicon Valley Democrat, asked Mr Zuckerberg if he was willing to change his business model to protect individual privacy.

“Congresswoman, I’m not sure what that means,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

• Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, gave Mr Zuckerberg a rough ride over what she said was as an imbalance between Facebook’s financial might and the lack of monetary penalties for privacy breaches.

When the chief executive said he did not recall whether a fine was associated with a Federal Trade Commission investigation in 2011, Ms DeGette said: “You’re the CEO of the company, you entered in to the consent decree and you don’t remember if there was a financial penalty?”

• Some representatives have pushed Zuckerberg to adopt the Browser Act, a bipartisan bill she’s backed that has consent requirements similar to the European GDPR.

Zuckerberg says he’s not familiar with the details – avoiding yet again committing to specific regulation.

• Zuckerberg also said Facebook needs to understand if “something bad” is going on at Cambridge University that will require a stronger action from the company, because of so many researchers making apps.


David McKinley (pictured) from West Virginia (R) puts up photographs showing that opioids are still for sale on his site, even though Zuckerberg says it is against Facebook’s rules. Doesn’t look like he’s going to be happy about Zuckerberg saying Facebook needs better AI tools to spot this kind of problematic post.


Zuckerberg has been able to be slightly slippery on some of these technical questions

https://twitter.com/ashk4n/status/984106509180198912


Peter Welch, Democrat from Vermont, gives Zuckerberg a brief respite from the blame game and instead berates lawmakers for not getting ahead of the privacy issue.

“This event that happened, whether it was Facebook or some other platform, was foreseeable and inevitable and we did nothing about it,” he says.

He puts a series of privacy standards and values before Zuckerberg, which he agrees with for a while, but then the Facebook chief starts to waver.

“Do you believe that consumers should be able to correct or delete inaccurate personal data that companies have obtained?”

“That one might be more … interesting to debate.”

“I think they do have that right,” says Welch.

Does Zuckerberg believe that the FTC or another agency should be able to determine on a regular basis what is considered “personal information” to “provide certainty for consumers”?

Interesting area, says Zuckerberg, but Welch presses him.

“Who gets the final say, private companies like yours or is there a governmental function here that defines what privacy is?”

“I think this an area where regulation makes sense,” says Zuckerberg. “You’ve suggested a very specific thing…” But while he won’t commit to that, “I’ll make sure we work with you to flesh this out.“

Another one for tomorrow’s to-do list.


Adam Kinzinger (pictured), a Republican from Illinois, asks a question that we haven’t heard yet: how do you share information with foreign governments? What have you shared with Russian intelligence?

Zuckerberg says in general Facebook is not in the business of sharing a lot of data with the Russian government. He has no specific knowledge of any data it has given to Russia. If countries have valid legal reason, it cooperates to give them data, usually of people from their country.

You can read how Russia has mastered the cyber disinformation war here.


Breaking news

The FT has confirmed the Cambridge Analytica resignation. Read more here.


Ben Ray Luján, Democrat of New Mexico, raises the issue of “shadow profiles” – data that Facebook collects about users that have never signed up for its social networking services.

Zuckerberg has said this is for security purposes but Mr Luján is concerned that these people lack any way to control or obtain the data Facebook has about them – unless they sign up for a Facebook profile.

“You’ve said everyone controls their data but you are collecting data on people who are never signed a consent or a privacy agreement,” says Luján. “You are directing people that don’t have a Facebook page to sign up to a Facebook page to download their data.”


Morgan Griffith, a Republican from Virginia, asks who decides what is misinformation? “When someone on my opponents put on Facebook that Morgan Griffith is a bum, I think that’s misinformation. What say you?”

Unfortunately Zuckeberg does not way in on the bum debate. Instead, he lists the actions they are taking on misinformation from cutting off financial incentives to taking down a Russian-backed news organisation.


Some don’t think Zuckerberg is being completely honest when he says he’s never heard of the term “shadow profiles”.

https://twitter.com/WillOremus/status/984110052096094208

https://twitter.com/drewharwell/status/984111094116515840

https://twitter.com/htsuka/status/984110993532858368


New York’s Paul Tonko (D) uses most of his four minutes to read off a litany of his voters’ concerns about Facebook privacy.

“Why should users trust Facebook with their likes, their loves, their lives?” he asks. “That trust has been shattered… I’m left wondering again why Congress should trust you again.” Does Zuckerberg bear liability when user data is mishandled?

Zuckerberg responds: “We are responsible for protecting people’s information for sure.”

But he reiterates that changes were made to Facebook’s platform in 2014 that would have prevented a leak like the one to Cambridge Analytica. “I wish we’d made those changes a couple of years earlier.”

Because if he had, he probably wouldn’t be sitting in this room today.


Gus Bilirakis, a Republican from Florida, tells Zuckerberg to work on those AI tools as soon as possible please, like a schoolteacher worried that Facebook is late with its homework. Then he channels a grandfather: “We all use Facebook. It is wonderful for us seniors to connect with our relatives.”


While Zuckerberg testifies, Facebook is notifying developers of the changes to its data policies, which could affect their businesses.

https://twitter.com/kifleswing/status/984105622802259968


Bill Johnson, a Republican from Ohio, is the third or the fourth representative who says he wants Facebook to get back to him on how it can help with rural internet infrastructure in his district. Isn’t it a bit strange to be pushing for regulation and admonishing Facebook, while also asking for favours?


New York congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D) asks if a lack of diversity is a problem when it comes to investigating and reviewing the problems on Facebook.

Zuckerberg agrees that Facebook needs to do more to improve diversity but adds: “I don’t think that that was the issue [here]. We were frankly slow to identifying the whole Russian misinformation campaign.”

But Clarke still believes Facebook lacks someone “culturally competent” to handle its content and ad review process.

“If everyone within the organisation is monolithic, you can miss these things very easily. We’ve talked about diversity forever with your organisation.”

Then she draws a contrast between Kogan’s quiz app, which did break Facebook’s data policies, and the Obama election campaign’s collection of information about millions of users’, which did not infringe its guidelines.

“I hope you understand this distinction provides little comfort for those of us concerned about our privacy online.”


Bill Johnson (R) from Ohio asks: What kind of accountability is there when mistakes are made – people take down content they should not have or leave inappropriate content up? Every time a mistake is made it chips away at trust, he says.

Zuckerberg says: content moderators are measured on their performance. But he doesn’t know the details or how often anyone is fired for not doing this job well.


Dave Loebsack, Democrat of Iowa begins: “Add my name to the rural broadband list as well. We definitely need more help on that front.”


Billy Long says the people of Missouri, who he represents, do not care about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. And he warns that Congress is getting ready to overreact.

Then, he gets into some showmanship, perhaps to make the people of Missouri care.

Mr Long asks: what is FaceMash and is it still up?

This is Zuck’s hot or not site he made as a sophomore in college. He says it is not still up and it was not the predecessor to Facebook, whatever the movie The Social Network says.

He puts up a photo of Diamond and Silk, the double act that recently had their content taken down from Facebook, and asked: what is unsafe about two black women supporting President Donald J. Trump?


Long also offers Zuckerberg some wisdom about how Congress operates. “Congress is good at doing two things. Doing nothing and overreacting,” he says. “We’re getting ready to overreact.”


Kurt Schrader (D) of Oregon is worried about destruction of evidence. Zuckerberg insists that Facebook has not removed any evidence, pausing its own audit of Cambridge Analytica while UK authorities make their own investigation.

On the issue of Facebook executives being able to delete messages that they sent to others, that is governed by the company’s “document retention policy”, Zuckerberg says. “We of course preserve anything there is a legal hold on.”


Larry Bucshon, a Republican from Indiana, brings up an old issue for Facebook: people believe the social network is listening to their conversations through the mic on their smartphone.

Facebook has always denied this – and Zuckerberg denied it yesterday and again just now. But it says a lot about how much Facebook does know about its users that they get creeped out and believe it is actually listening in. Zuckerberg says this is often a coincidence or because they visited a website related to the subject.

NPR’s Reply All did a very interesting episode investigating this.

“I’m sceptical that someone isn’t listening,” says Bucshon. He also suggests Alexa and other smart devices are deliberately collecting information from overheard conversations. (Worth remembering that Facebook is planning to release its own smart device, which Bloomberg reports has been set back by the privacy crisis)


Bucshon notes that eavesdropping via our phones would be an especially big deal for conversations taking place in doctors’ offices and company board rooms.

He asks if Facebook executives take phones into key meetings. “We do,” Zuckerberg says, looking rather nonplussed.


Joe Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts, tackles the issue around data and ad targeting with a little more precision than some of his predecessors. Can advertisers employ data that is not shared publicly by users to target ads?

Zuckerberg responds that the options available to advertisers are “generally” based on what people share, but adds that Facebook also “does its own work” to rank ads and help figure out which ads are most interesting to which people. “We may use metadata in order to make our systems more relevant to you,” he says.

But Kennedy isn’t satisfied with Zuckerberg’s claim that this is “different” to giving that option to advertisers.

“I don’t understand how users then own that data,” the congressman says. “That’s part of the problem.”


Tony Cardenas of California (D) tells Zuckerberg that the CEO of Cambridge Analytica has stepped down. Does that solve the issue?

“Congressman, I don’t think so,” he says. “There are a couple of big issues here.”


Cardenas then tackles Facebook for trying to prevent the Guardian from publishing its story on Cambridge Analytica, and only apologising for the leak after the article appeared.

“Congressman, you’re right that we apologised after they posted the story,” Zuckerberg says, styling Facebook’s threat to sue the Guardian as being over a particular inaccuracy.

“They had most of the details of what was right there and I don’t think we objected to that. There was a specific thing that we were worried about.” The time runs out before he can explain more on that point.


Now, another 10 minute break.


While you’re waiting, it is worth reading this by Ben Thompson, a tech/business analyst, on regulating Facebook, based on yesterday’s testimony.


Shares in Facebook, which had dipped a little when Zuckerberg started today’s testimony, are now up 1.3 per cent to $167.12. That’s an over 6 per cent gain since the start of yesterday’s testimony.


It is also worth reading the FT’s John Gapper on how Mark Zuckerberg cannot control his creation. And check out the cartoon, with Zuck as the apprentice in Fantasia.


Overall Wednesday’s questioning seems to be more pointed, better informed and demanding than Zuckerberg faced on Tuesday.

As well as privacy and the specifics of how ad targeting works, the Facebook chief has been asked for commitments to tackle everything from opioid advertising to rural broadband.

Several Republicans have also challenged exactly how neutral Facebook’s content moderation really is.

The session is resuming again now.


We’re back. Zuckerberg has a correction from talking to his team. He says that users cannot see their web browsing history when they download their Facebook data – when he said they could. Instead, Facebook doesn’t keep that data for very long. It converts it into a list of interests and those interests are in the downloadable data.

Susan Brooks, a Republican from Indiana, starts by addressing the recruitment of terrorists on Facebook. This hasn’t come up in this hearing yet. What if no one reports this to you? What is Facebook’s leadership role in helping us fight terrorism?

Zuckerberg: terrorist content and propaganda has no place in our network. Some 99 per cent of the ISIS and Al Qaeda content that Facebook is taken down before it is made public. But Brooks is also interested in recruitment, which is harder to stop.


Zuckerberg is asked whether there should be a digital data protection agency for social media akin to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for banks.

“I think it’s an idea that deserves a lot of consideration,” he says.

It is an intriguing idea. The question came from the Democrat Raul Ruiz. But it’s worth noting that it probably wouldn’t fly with many Republicans, who despise the CFPB (and are making headway in defanging it).


Californian congressman Raul Ruiz (D) asks why Facebook did not notify the FTC in 2015 when it first discovered the Cambridge Analytica leak, despite the consent order that had been imposed on it in 2011?

“In retrospect it was a mistake,” Zuckerberg says. “We should have and I wish we had notified people about it then… I don’t believe that we necessarily had a legal obligation to do so, I think it was the right thing to have done.”

Zuckerberg tries to fall back on his oft-repeated line that Facebook takes a “broader view” of its privacy responsibilities but Ruiz doesn’t let him get away with it. “I’m also taking a broader view as a congressman to try to fix this problem.”

The congressman proposes a “digital consumer protection agency” that can oversee data protection, with more power than the FTC.

Zuckerberg is noncommittal, again falling back on a familiar script. “I think it’s an idea that deserves a lot of consideration. I’m not the type of person who thinks there should be no regulation… but the details on this really matter.”


Markwayne Mullin, a Republican representative from Oklahoma, is pushing a personal responsibility line: people can find the controls and share the data they like.

The Republicans are being nicer to Zuckerberg.


Zuckerberg’s standard response to any particular call for regulation is to say the idea should be discussed.

It’s how he responds again when congressman Scott Peters (D) from California asks whether Congress should define the duty of privacy internet companies owe to consumers. “I think that makes sense to discuss,” Zuckerberg says.


Peters also suggests that financial penalties for breaking the duty of privacy be big enough to make privacy a “bottom line issue”, to “send a signal” to both employees and shareholders.

Zuckerberg rejects the idea that there is “some conflict” between consumers and business interests. People want to be able to sign into apps more easily using Facebook’s login but “everyone wants their information locked down” too. “It’s not a business question,” Zuckerberg says. “Which of those equities do you weigh more?”

Peters revisits a response Zuckerberg gave yesterday when asked about GDPR that Europeans get “some things” right. What, exactly, did they get right and wrong?

“There are a lot of things that the Europeans do,” Zuckerberg answers, awkwardly. “GDPR in general is going to be a very positive step for the internet.”

But what did they get wrong?

A pause. “I need to think about that more.”


Chris Collins, a Democrat from New York, numbers himself as questioner 48 of 54. The end for Zuckerberg is in sight.

Collins is also being extremely friendly to Zuckerberg, saying he’s doing a good job, has been treated meanly by some other lawmakers, and that no new regulation is necessary.


Tim Walberg, Republican from Michigan says he believes in “light touch regulation” allowing Facebook self-regulate as much as possible. “In the end your Facebook subscribers are going to tell you what you need to do,” he said.


Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, is fierce: listing everything that Zuckerberg did not know in his technologies. He didn’t know about the information Facebook is collecting from his own users, he didn’t know if Facebook had paid a fine to the FTC, he did not know about shadow profiles.

“It doesn’t matter if you have a Facebook account,” she said. “Facebook is able to collect data from you.” How many Facebook like buttons are there on the internet? Are there over 100m? Zuckerberg doesn’t know but he suspects there were at one point at least 100m like buttons on the internet.

Zuckerberg tries to say he will get back to the committee, as he has many many times before. But she pushes him to commit to giving an answer on this question within 72 hours, referring to the requirement for notifying cyber security breaches in 72 hours under the European GDPR.

“Data protection and privacy are like clean air and clean water. There needs to be clear rules of the road,” she ends.


Dingell has given a decent summary on the areas where Zuckerberg has been found wanting today.

For critics of Facebook, the items my colleague Hannah lists below will be seized on as further proof that the company is out of control and that Zuckerberg is not able to manage it.

But it’s notable that in nearly 10 hours of questioning he still hasn’t been asked: are you the right person to lead this company?


Asked again about whether Facebook should be classed as a publisher, and therefore legally responsible for the content on its site, Zuckerberg tries to delineate between professionally produced videos that Facebook pays for on its Watch platform, and the rest.

“There is content that we fund, specifically in video today. I certainly think we have full responsibility of owning that content,” he says. “The vast majority of content on Facebook is not something we commissioned.”


Buddy Carter, Republican representative from Georgia, sums up the Republican tone throughout both these hearings. “I don’t think you can legislate morality” – but there are some things Facebook should be doing but they are not.


Zuckerberg can go home with a souvenir.

Congressman Jeff Duncan (pictured) is offering him a blue copy of the constitution – containing the first amendment on free speech – as Duncan complains about conservative and Christian content being censored on Facebook.

Zuckerberg repeats that “we make mistakes” in content review, as he has said several times already today.


Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, says he fears that Congress could “over-respond” with regulation. He is the last Congressman to ask his question.

But he does dig in on ads selling opioids. “Please be better that this,” Cramer says, arguing Facebook needs to be better at taking down these ads and suggests that if there were high fines for these kinds of illegal drug sales online, Facebook might be more proactive.

Cramer argues that to counter the liberalism of Silicon Valley, Facebook should open an office with content moderators in the middle of America. Perhaps North Dakota.

Zuckerberg quickly corrects him – the majority of the people doing content review are not in Silicon Valley (what he doesn’t say is that the often minimum wage contractors wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the Bay Area).


Today was rougher on Zuckerberg than yesterday. He avoided major embarrassments, but his lack of knowledge on key issues was exposed and he couldn’t give clear answers to some central questions on data collection and sharing.

“I don’t suppose you want to hang around for another round of questions?” jokes Greg Walden, the chairman (pictured below shaking Zuckerberg’s hand afterwards) as the hearing approaches the end.


Chairman Greg Walden sums up by asking Zuckerberg for suggestions of other chief executives that should appear before the committee to talk about issues such as privacy and net neutrality.

He’s pretty much asking Zuck to nominate a competitor CEO to be dragged through five hours of testimony. I’d bet he nominates the leaders of Google, Apple and Twitter…


After five hours of testimony, ten in total in the last two days, Zuckerberg is now free to go.

But he left many questions unanswered, which Facebook will have to follow up on in the coming days and weeks.