On day two (11 April) of his congressional testimony, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced a series of tougher questions from lawmakers that had seemingly done their homework this time around.
The second five-hour testimony of the week saw Zuckerberg reveal that he was one of the up to 87m Facebook users that had their personal information illegally handed to Cambridge Analytica.
This led to Representative Anna Eshoo of California asking the 33-year-old multibillionaire, “are you willing to change your business model to protect users’ privacy?” Zuckerberg, as was the theme for much of the two days, gave an evasive response of “Congresswoman, I’m not sure what that means”.
On top of his reluctance to discuss the idea of changing the Facebook business model, Zuckerberg once again did not overtly provide support for the idea of legislation being introduced to police internet platforms. Though he did concede that “it is inevitable that there will need to be some regulation”.
Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, suggested US lawmakers would weigh up this idea of legislation, stating that “I think it is time to ask whether Facebook may have moved too fast and broken too many things” – in relation to Facebook’s early ‘move fast and break things’ motto. Despite this, lawmakers didn’t provide any insight into the type of privacy legislation they may seek to implement.
The overall punchier approach from lawmakers on day two of the hearing, which include a comparison between Facebook and J Edgar Hoover from Representative Bobby Rush of Illinois, had Zuckerberg facing far more difficult question. However, like on day one, he fielded the majority of these questions with ease – no doubt channelling the hardened approach passed on by his lawyers.
When there was potential for Zuckerberg to potentially put his foot in it, he brushed off questions with short, crafted responses – a lot of the time saying he didn’t have an answer for the question.
Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey posed the question of whether Facebook would be willing to change its default setting to minimise the collection and use of users’ data, to which Zuckerberg said: “This is a complex issue that deserve more than a one-word answer”. On that point, several members of the House committee asked Zuckerberg about how transparent Facebook is about the data it collects not just on users but also on non-users – questions that Zuckerberg bobbed and weaved like a prime Muhammed Ali.
The Facebook CEO was also once again pressed about the alleged censorship of right-wing organisations on the social network. Zuckerberg said he agreed “that we should give people a voice”.
All-in-all, the 10-hour testimony over the course of two days has failed to put any sort of a dent in Zuckerberg and Facebook with lawmakers failing to land any significant strikes over the course of the contest. In fact, following both days, shares in Facebook rose – making the Facebook CEO an even more wealthy man.