After the Cambridge Analytica’s episode, Facebook landed in hot water and became the unrelenting brunt of criticism from all circles. Some big names such as Elon Musk also lashed out on Facebook for their failure to keep collected data secure. This week, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of senators to testify and answer some tough questions from Senators. The energy on Twitter and in the room was downright electric as the CEO of the social media behemoth adorned the hot seat, surrounded by cameras. However, on a lighter note, less expected were the somewhat rambling and awkward moments throughout the combined 12 hours of testimony, as congress members grappled to get their heads around the legitimately intricate technology they were interrogating. Here is the inside story and some noteworthy moments from the event.
1. We Run Ads
Senator Orrin Hatch asked Mark Zuckerberg a question that left many rolling their eyes at his sheepishness: How do you sustain a business model in which users do not pay for your service? The tone in which he composed the question made viewers question whether he even had the slightest idea about how Facebook operates its revenue model. CNN anchors and internet trolls are forever waiting for such a slip up to pounce on and they made big time. This is why Mark Zuckerberg’s reply to Senator Orrin Hatch’s question made headlines. With a smirk playing at the side of his lips, Zuckerberg retorted with, “Senator, We run ads.” He responded back with a hangdog, “I see, that’s great.”
2. Big Brother is listening
There are many conspiracies surrounding Facebook and one of them is that Facebook secretly listens to you. Senator Gary Peters set the alarm bells ringing by voicing this concern in front of Mark Zuckerberg and asking him about the common suspicion that Facebook listens to its users via their mobile devices. To make matters worse, his question was too directed, leaving Zuckerberg no choice but to answer in a resounding “yes” or a “no”.
Congressman Larry Bucshon shared a real-life example of his son which we can all relate to at some level. His son once mentioned that he wanted to buy a suit and soon thereafter his newsfeed was bombarded by ads of suits online. Mark Zuckerberg brushed it under the carpet by saying, “My understanding is that a lot of these cases that you’re talking about are a coincidence.”
3. Love for Chocolate
Senator Bill Nelson was outright about his predilection for chocolates. “I’m communicating with my friends on Facebook, and indicate that I love a certain kind of chocolate. And, all of a sudden, I start receiving advertisements for chocolate. What if I don’t want to receive those commercial advertisements?” His argument further reinforces the accusation that Facebook does indeed spy on its users.
4. Palantir = Stanford Analytica
Senator Maria Cantwell reassured Mark Zuckerberg that he was not alone. Peter Thiel also founded a data analysis firm called Palantir, commonly known as Stanford Analytica. “Do you agree with this notion?” Maria asked Zuckerberg. Mark Zuckerberg’s answer ensued after a few minutes of silence, “Senator, I have not heard that.” It was a cross-reference to Cambridge Analytica and a sardonic rhetoric chucked by Senator Maria Cantwell. Zuckerberg was cunning enough to understand the dynamics and handled it pretty well.
5. Senator’s Love For Facebook
Despite Cambridge Analytica’s debacle, most Senators can’t seem to get their heads around the notion of parting with Facebook. Senator Thom Tillis confessed to Mark Zuckerberg, “I have got 4,900 friends on my Facebook page. I delete the haters and save room for family members and true friends on my personal page”, while Senator Roy Blunt shared the story of his 13-year-old son Charlie, “My son Charlie, who’s 13, is dedicated to Instagram, so he’d want to be sure I mention him while I was here with you.”
Senator Shelley Moore Capito requested Zuckerberg to bring fiber optics to West Virginia as some rural areas lack high-speed internet connectivity. Mark Zuckerberg jumped on the opportunity to promote his Free Basics Internet initiative. This carried over well into the second day of the testimony, as senators requested Zuckerberg to introduce high-speed internet connectivity to several other districts.
6. What If Your Data Was Breached, Mark?
It was a smooth sailing for Mark Zuckerberg until Senator Dick Durban made him break out in a sweat with a tirade of accusations. “Mr. Zuckerberg, would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?” Mark Zuckerberg was surely caught off-guard and shook his head in negative after a small respite. Unfortunately for Zuckerberg, the inquisitions did not end there.
Durbin tossed another free ball, “If you’ve messaged anyone this week, would you share with us the names of the people you’ve messaged?” Mark Zuckerberg answered, “No, I would probably not choose to do that publicly here.” What these two seemingly innocuous questions accomplished to do was to justify all the hoopla around the indictments and reaffirm user apprehensions surrounding the Cambridge Analytica farce. Positively Grilled!
7. FaceMash and Movie References
Billy Long took a trip down the memory lane and started reminiscing about FaceMash, an app created by Mark Zuckerberg too long ago. “What was Facemesh, and is it still up and running?” Mark Zuckerberg responded in affirmative with a reference to the movie, “The Social Network”.
He further adds, “It was of unclear truth — and the claim that Facemash was somehow connected to the development of Facebook. It isn’t. It wasn’t.” Mark Zuckerberg looked flustered at Senator Billy Long’s satirical remark, “Just coincidental? The timing was the same, right? Just coincidental? You put up pictures of two women and decide which one is the better, more attractive of the two?”
What do you think about Cambridge Analytica and Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony? Share your opinion with us about how it will play out for Facebook in the long run.