Mark Zuckerberg is preparing to testify before the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce regarding recent scandals at Facebook, including the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting operation and the Russia-linked Internet Research Agency’s misinformation campaigns. Ahead of his testimony, he has released his prepared statement, a seven-page document that begins with an apology, admitting that Facebook failed to take a “broad enough view” of its responsibilities.
“That was a big mistake,” writes Zuckerberg. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
The prepared statement mostly covers information that was already known, and any real revelations are likely to come from Zuckerberg answering lawmakers’ questions about the scale of election interference, Facebook’s privacy policies and the company’s future. However, some new information was disclosed, including the fact that Facebook detected and shut down accounts related to the Russia-linked APT28 hacking group over the summer of 2016.
“Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company,” writes Zuckerberg. “For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can bring…but 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.
“My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together. Advertisers and developers will never take priority over that as long as I’m running Facebook.”
While many will welcome Zuckerberg's contrition, for others, it is wearing thin. In the UK this week, the Guardian's financial editor Nils Pratley probably spoke for many when he wrote: "This breezy I-promise-to-do-better mantra would be understandable if offered by a schoolchild who had fluffed an exam. But Zuckerberg is running the world's eighth largest company."
Scott McNealy, former Sun Microsystems CEO and now founder of brand engagement platform Wayin, believes the Cambridge Analytica scandal was the kick in the pants marketers needed to be better marketers. He told us:
“I once famously said, ‘You have no privacy, get over it.’ Times are changing in terms of privacy but one thing is clear: marketers should use customer data to personalize marketing experiences, ads and messaging. In the wake of Zuckerberg's testimony this week and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the question we need to ask ourselves is what are the impacts of this and how should marketers react? The answer: marketers should switch to using declared data, not the risky third party junk many have relied on. So the fact that Facebook has cut the umbilical cord between some marketers and their dependency on bad third party data has to be a good thing.”
You can see Zuckerberg's full statement here.