Here's what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wanted 44 senators to know about the scandal in which Cambridge Analytica used the massive social platform to access 87 million users: He made mistakes. Facebook's mission is to "help people connect." And no, he's not resigning.
"Founded Facebook. My decisions. I made mistakes. Big challenge but we've solved problems before. Going to solve this one," read Zuckerberg's notes under the heading "Accountability" and the bullet point "Resign?" Zuckerberg left the notes on his desk during a break in testimony to the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees.
Not so fast, the much older senators told Zuckerberg, 33, who was perched atop a seat pillow for the much-anticipated hearing into whether and how the breach affected the 2016 elections. Many of the senators' questions seemed to focus on Facebook's basic functions, such as its privacy settings and what it does and doesn't do with user data, but didn't always seem to know how to follow up Zuckerberg's talk of algorithms and AI systems. So one member of the joint committee, average age 62, got to the point.
"I just don't feel like we're connecting," Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told Zuckerberg in hour four of the hearing. "Your user agreement sucks."
Mark Zuckerberg is now living out every young person's worst nightmare: trying to explain how tech stuff works to the nation's elderly— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) April 10, 2018
This time, there was no flop sweat, perhaps because the senators spent most of the first of two days of hearings reading questions for Zuckerberg on privacy issues rather than attacking him as expected on broader matters such as Russia's role in election meddling or Facebook's lag in responding to the data breach. It wasn't as if senators could forget about the Russian meddling. Multiple investigations are probing the interference. Besides, someone dressed as a Russian troll watched from the audience wearing a pointy, blue-and-green wig.
Under "Election integrity (Russia)," Zuckerberg's notes read, "Too slow, making progress."
Under "Data safety," the notes read, "Made mistakes, working hard to fix them." Zuckerberg repeatedly told senators that unsatisfied Facebook members can adjust their privacy settings — or delete their accounts.
And under "Defend Facebook," the notes advised the CEO that "If attacked," he should respond: "Respectfully, I reject that. Not who we are."
Tomorrow's headline: For the Zuck, Congress's Ignorance is His Bliss.— Andrew Dolph (@andrewdolph) April 10, 2018
Twitter widely noted the apparent age or knowledge gap between Zuckerberg and the senators.
"Wrap it up, Grandpa Grassley," tweeted one user to the Judiciary Committee chairman, who was deep into his first term in the Senate when Zuckerberg was born in 1984.
The senators questions were largely rudimentary, with some calling the 5-hour hearing "Social Media 101."
Sen. Orrin Hatch asked Zuckerberg how Facebook made money if it didn't charge users for its services. "Senator, we run ads," Zuckerberg said smilingly.
Sen. Wicker then went onto ask "There have been reports that Facebook can track users' internet browsing history even after that user has logged off of Facebook. Can you confirm whether or not this is true?" He clearly didn't understand how "cookies" worked.
Genuine looks of confusion just hit the senate panel when Mark Zuckerberg said "cookies"— Joe Perticone (@JoePerticone) April 10, 2018
When asked by Senator Lindsey Graham if Facebook has a monopoly, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it "certainly doesn't feel that way to me."
Graham also equated Facebook and Twitter asking, "Is Twitter the same as what you do?" a question many hoped was for trolling purposes only.
He said Facebook has many competitors and demurred at naming just one. Facebook provides a "number of different services" and that the average person uses eight different apps to communicate with friends, he added.
But some senators disagreed, saying Facebook is too big and that they believe it should be forced to spin off apps like WhatsApp and Instagram.
Some senators of a certain age utilized posters to illustrate their questions, such as Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who's served in the Senate since 1975. He asked Zuckerberg about hate speech, in places like Myanmar.
"What's happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy," Zuckerberg answered.
"We all agree with that," Leahy snapped.
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