Zuckerberg testimony: Facebook CEO grilled by Congress over data misuse – live
Julia Carrie Wong
Mark Zuckerberg testifies.
“Proceed, sir,” Senator Grassley says to Zuckerberg, as the opening statements end.
Zuckerberg is now delivering his opening remarks, which appear to be an abridged version of the statement published yesterday.
“My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together,” Zuckerberg says. “Advertisers and developers will never take priority over that as long as I’m running Facebook.”
Senator Bill Nelson, ranking member of Commerce, Science & Transportation, begins his remarks with a blunt wakeup call directly to Zuckerberg: “If you and other social media companies do not get your act together, none of us are going to have any privacy anymore.”
“If Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix the privacy invasions, then we are going to have to,” Nelson added. “We, the congress.”
Earlier, Senator Grassley mentioned that the Judiciary committee plans to hold a separate hearing with Cambridge Analytica.
Senator John Thune, the Republican chairman of the Commerce, Science and Technology committee, is getting started by going straight to the heart of Facebook’s business model – free service in exchange for personal data.
“For this model to persist, both sides of the bargain need to know what’s involved,” Thune said. “I’m not convinced Facebook’s users have the information they need to make decisions.”
Thune went on to say that Congress’s willingness to allow the tech industry to self-regulate “may be changing.”
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While we wait for the hearing to begin, here’s a preview of what Zuckerberg will say, based on his prepared testimony.
“Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company,” his statement reads. “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. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
Meanwhile, the hearing room is packed with reporters, a handful of activists from Code Pink, and, according to New York Times reporter Kevin Roose, an actual Russian troll.
Someone came to the hearing dressed as a Russian troll. pic.twitter.com/ZdPEK9MDne
April 10, 2018
“Congress is theatre,” former Obama administration official Ari Ratner told my colleague Olivia Solon, for her preview of today’s hearing. “More than what they are going to want to learn [about the data lapses], they are going to want to inflict pain.”
The appetite for public humiliation is obviously there. Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware and member of the judiciary committee, tweeted early Tuesday that he had discovered multiple fake Facebook accounts impersonating him.
On today of all days, I just found out that there are two fake Facebook accounts impersonating me, and guess what? Many of the ‘friends’ appear to be Russian accounts. @facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg-this is unacceptable pic.twitter.com/woMMdeEGv4
Coons’ apparent pique – “on today of all days” speaks of a certain amount of high dudgeon – is indicative of the attitude many citizens, regulators, and lawmakers feel toward the company that has monetized our identities and intimate relationships: this is personal.
And yet, in order to draw blood, lawmakers will have to actually pass legislation reining in Facebook’s power. It’s hard to imagine that happening with this Congress.
Welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of Mark Zuckerberg appearance before the US Congress. Today, Zuckerberg will answer questions from a joint hearing of the Senate judiciary and commerce, science and transportation committees. Tomorrow he will run the gauntlet again before the House committee on energy and commerce.
Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress – his first, despite having been at the helm of one of the most powerful companies in history for 14 years – is the result of powerful public pressure in the wake of Facebook’s massive data harvesting scandal. Last month, the Observer revealed that the Facebook data of tens of millions of Americans was harvested and improperly transferred to the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
Despite initially downplaying the significance of the reporting, Facebook has subsequently apologized, promised to change, and acknowledged that as many as 87m people were affected. The company has also announced a flurry of reforms, from revised terms of service to updated privacy settings, stricter rules for political advertisers and a new data leak bounty.
Today’s hearing is ostensibly about “social media privacy and the use and abuse of data” – but with as many as 44 senators expected to take their turn grilling the CEO, we are likely in for a wide-ranging airing of grievances about the company and its unprecedented power.
Last year, when Congress held hearings about the use of social media by a Russian influence operation, Zuckerberg sent Facebook’s general counsel to testify while he and his family dressed up as characters from Where The Wild Things Are for Halloween.
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