Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee today after testifying before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees yesterday. Just nine of the 55 members on the Committee have not received any donations from Facebook.
Breitbart Tech’s Allum Bokhari, who has been out front and a must-read on all things Big Tech and Facebook, suggested four critical questions that Senators should ask Zuckerberg. He has six more that the House should ask him today.
Though the legacy media want the focus of the hearing to be about privacy, the bigger issue is whether Facebook is working to blunt the influence of right-of-center news outlets and personalities while propping up establishment outlets and those in good standing with them.
Breitbart Tech reported this week that since Facebook’s algorithm alteration, legacy media outlets like CNN have seen “remarkable” increases in engagement on the social-media platform while non-legacy outlets on the right have seen the biggest drops, according to independent analysis from Newswhip.
At Breitbart News’s blockbuster live town hall event (“Masters of the Universe”: Big Tech vs. Free Speech and Privacy) in Louisiana last week, Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, said point blank that Big Tech held back during the 2016 election because they never imagined that Donald Trump could win the presidency. But it’s a whole new ball game now.
“They held back… they will never hold back again,” he said.
2:55: Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) quips that his state may be more diverse than Facebook and urges Zuckerberg to hire people from the middle of the country to counter Silicon Valley’s left-wing biases.
2:50: Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) points out that liberal groups are not voicing concerns about bias and censorship.
Duncan points out that Facebook should have algorithms that are neutral like the First Amendment after saying privacy and censorship are the two biggest concerns.
Zuckerberg is heading home with his own copy of the constitution from Rep Jeff Duncan pic.twitter.com/QfoZGqzry6
— Gerrit De Vynck (@GerritD) April 11, 2018
2:35: Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) jokes her 91-year-old husband is the “king of Twitter” before grilling Zuckerberg about Facebook like buttons on non-Facebook webpages and the ability of Facebook to collect data. She then says data privacy is like “clean air and clean water”….
2:30: Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) asking about California’s various privacy initiatives, and Zuckerberg punts.
2:20: Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC)–Diamond and Silk are from his District–asks what standards Facebook uses to deem what is offensive, etc. Zuckerberg says he struggles with what is “hate speech” vs. what is “political speech.” He says it’s nuanced and insists he is criticized from both the left and right. Strangely, Democrats do not seem too concerned. Zuckerberg also sites changing “societal standards.”
1:35: Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA) mentions that the acting CEO of Cambridge Analytics stepped down today. He asks about Facebook’s growth/revenue. Zuckerberg really does seem aloof about the company’s numbers, etc–probably leaves all that up to Sandberg.
1:31: Zuckerberg says his platform should be one for all ideas but does not specifically answer whether it should be ideologically neutral. Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), so eager to move on to this next question/statement, just completely lets him off the hook. No follow-ups.
1:25: Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) now questioning Zuckerberg about whether advertisers get information that users do not think is being collected. He wonders how users could “own” that data.
1:22: Rep. Larry Buchshon (D-IN) wondering if Facebook listens in on phones and targets ads based on conversations it picks up through phones and other products like Alexa. Zuckerberg says they do not collect information through microphones unless someone is making videos to post on Facebook. Buschshon cites numerous personal examples where friends and families have had ads appear a day after they had talked about things like suits and says “someone’s listening.” Zuckerberg says it could be a “coincidence” because they could have been talking about something and then searched for it later.
1:20: Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) wonders if Facebook has the ability to follow his web interactions after he has logged out of Facebook. Zuckerberg punts, saying he has control over what Facebook does re: ads and implies Facebook tracks people once they are logged out for “security” reasons.
1:12: Rep. Billy Long (R-LA) asks Zuckerberg if he recognizes the people on the screen. Zuckerberg says he does and says they are Diamond and Silk. Long says Diamond and Silk have a question for Zuckerberg: “What is unsafe about two black women supporting Donald J. Trump?”
“Nothing is unsafe about that,” Zuckerberg says.
1:05: Zuckerberg says content reviewers are based on performance but runs out of time when asked what happened to the person who took down Franciscan University’s crucification advertisement.
NEW: Dr Alexander Tayler steps down as acting CEO of Cambridge Analytica to resume former role, board announces. Tayler took over the role after CEO Alexander Nix was suspended amid data privacy scandal. pic.twitter.com/hxvMk0ZoYN
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) April 11, 2018
1:00: Clarke now hitting Zuckerberg about the “lack of diversity” within the company and implies that the company’s lack of diversity prevented the company from identifying “fake news” that she thinks tried to exploit racial tensions. She thinks Facebook’s “monolithic” organization may not have been “culturally competent.” Clarke also grills Zuckerberg about the Obama campaign scraping Facebook data.
12:58: Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) thanks “Mr. Zuckerman.” (too much 90210?)
12:48: Zuckerberg reveals his fact-checkers are all approved by the establishment-approved Poynter Institute.
12:41: Zuckerberg, when asked about shadow profiles, punts when asked how many profiles Facebook has on people who are not users. Zuckerberg says it is necessary for security and is not sure how many such profiles the company has. Rep. Lujan (D-NM) asks Zuckerberg why people (non-Facebook users) need to create a Facebook account to download the data the company has about them.
12:35: When asked about what data Facebook shares with foreign government, Zuckerberg goes back to his talking points about “imminent harm” and local law enforcement. He says the second category is when there is a “valid legal service,” and he says he is not in the business of providing data to the Russian government. Kinzinger (R-IL) asks whether the arms race with Russia re: data is “one-sided.” Zuckerberg says he has no specific knowledge of any data Facebook has given to Russia.
12:32: Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) asking Zuckerberg whether consumers have a right to place limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain. Zuckerberg says it seems “reasonable.” Welch asks whether the FTC should be able to determine on a regular basis what is considered “personal information” to provide certainty to consumers and companies to make sure what information is to be protected. Zuckerberg says there should be some discussion on oversight. Zuckerberg says details would matter re: any such regulation re: consumer’s right to privacy.
12:28: Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), brings up opioid epidemic, says Facebook is allowing illegal online pharmacies to sell illegal drugs and claims Zuckerberg is “hurting people.”
12:25: Rep. Mcnerney wants to know why his browsing history cannot be downloaded if Facebook collects that information.
12:13: Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) asking if Facebook offered “embeds” to campaigns. Zuckerberg insists it was “sales support.”
12:03: Rep. Kathy Castor (D-CA) thinks a “devil’s bargain” has been struck between Facebook and its users. She grills Zuckerberg about collecting data and says Americans do not want to be manipulated. Zuckerberg disagrees with the characterization that Facebook is a business that aggregates data.
12:01: Zuckerberg claims that there have been complaints from the left about “liberal content” being mistakenly censored. Yet, for some strange reason, Democrats are not asking about censorship and viewpoint bias and do not seem too concerned at all.
11:43: Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), following up on Blackburn’s important and excellent questioning, asks Zuckerberg again about the “virtual self.” Zuckerberg again slyly answers that users own their “content.” (“content” not the same as “virtual self.”)
11:37: Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) criticizes Zuckerberg for lack of diversity in his company’s leadership. Grills Zuckerberg about whether he will add an African-American to his leadership team.
11:32: Zuckerberg claims he is “worried about bias” and he insists that none of the changes Facebook makes will result in “bias.” Zuckerberg says a few examples should not be used to claim that the “overall system is biased.” When asked about Facebook rejecting Franciscan University’s crucification ad, Zuckerberg apologizes and said it was another “mistake.”
An ad we placed was rejected by Facebook today for content that is “shocking, sensational, and excessively violent.”
— Franciscan U (@FranciscanU) March 30, 2018
Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky listing every time Zuckerberg has apologized, starting from 2003, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2018, etc. This is proof that self-regulation simply does not work, she says. Mentions Secure and Protect Americans' Data Act: https://t.co/JhIfkGBnLk
— Christopher Carbone (@christocarbone) April 11, 2018
11:13: House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) asks who creates Facebook’s algorithm because it has a 16% liberal bias. He jokes that Facebook should make the algorithm public. Zuckerberg claims there was no “directive” to build in an anti-conservative bias in the newsfeed algorithm. Zuckerberg claims there is “absolutely no bias” in anything the company does.
Zuckerberg claims that Facebook did not allow the Obama campaign to do anything others were not allowed to and claims the former Obama campaign official’s (Carol Davidsen) remarks about how Facebook allowed them to suck the whole social graph because they were “on our side” is inaccurate.
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) April 11, 2018
When Obama's own media analytics director says Facebook gave them an unfair advantage, what more evidence do you need?
— Allum Bokhari (@LibertarianBlue) April 11, 2018
11:10: Rep. DeGette’s (D-CO) questioning just as tough as Blackburn’s.
From the excellent @RepDianaDeGette, the epic: "You're the CEO of the company, correct?" Also: "We continue to have these abuses and these data breaches. I think one of the things we have to look at in the future is putting really robust penalties in place."
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) April 11, 2018
Memo to $FB Zuckerberg – shareholder equity is not equivalent to market capitalization.
Oy. He shoulda finished Harvard, or maybe have gone to Wharton. (Just Kidding!) @jimcramer @tomkeene @carlquintanilla
— Douglas Kass (@DougKass) April 11, 2018
Zuckerberg just confused shareholder equity with company market cap during the hearing. As a CEO that is inexcusable.
— Alec Mazo (@Alec_Mazo) April 11, 2018
11:00: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) asks Facebook “who owns the virtual you.” Zuckerberg doesn’t directly answer the question, claims everyone owns their own content online. But Blackburn asked about “virtual you” and not “content.” Blackburn asks where privacy ranks with Facebook as a corporate value. Zuckerberg says it’s a “fundamental feature” and not an “add-on.” Blackburn will not let Zuckerberg “filibuster” to run out the clock. GOP questioning all over the map. Absolutely no game plan to team up to ask the most important questions about censorship, viewpoint bias, etc. But at least Blackburn is bringing up the subject and questioning Zuckerberg on it. Zuckerberg says it is not “censorship” when asked about what Facebook is doing with its algorithm changes/AI to remove content. “We don’t think what we are doing is censorship.” Zuckerberg brings up removing terrorist content.
Blackburn: “Diamond and Silk is not terrorism.”
Rep. Upton says a constituent running for state senate was censored on Facebook when he announced his campaign because of "shocking content."
Zuckerberg again says it "might be a mistake."
— Allum Bokhari (@LibertarianBlue) April 11, 2018
10:37: Zuckerberg reveals his personal Facebook data was also breached. Rep. Eshoo (D-CA), who has received the most donations from Facebook and related entities, asks if Zuckerberg has a “moral responsibility” to create a platform that will “protect democracy.”
— Natasha Chen (@NatashaChenCNN) April 11, 2018
10:30: Dem. Rep. Bobby Rush compares Zuckerberg to J. Edgar Hoover.
10:25: Zuckerberg admits that the company made an “enforcement error” when it flagged Diamond and Silk’s page for “unsafe” content. He claims they have gotten in touch with Diamond and Silk, but the dynamic duo has claimed they have not heard from the company.
— Diamond and Silk® (@DiamondandSilk) April 10, 2018
10:20: Pallone doesn’t buy that Zuckerberg is changing user settings so they default towards more privacy. When he presses for a yes or no answer, Zuckerberg replies: “This is a complex issue that deserves more than a one-word answer.” Pallone says he’s “disappointed.”
10:16: Walden says twice as many people watched Tom Brady’s reality show than the Oscars. He points out that Facebook also has exclusive rights to 25 Major League Baseball games (Facebook broadcast Mets vs. Phillies last week). He asks if Facebook is a media company. Zuckerberg says it’s a tech company and again says it is responsible for content. Zuckerberg adds that Facebook helps build planes to help connect people but he doesn’t consider his company an “aerospace company.” Walden asks if Facebook is a financial institution. Zuckerberg again says it’s a tech company.
10:11: Zuckerberg reading his prepared testimony.
— Natasha Chen (@NatashaChenCNN) April 11, 2018
I’m no stranger to the strangeness of having a lens or two in my face. But today’s #Zuckerberg hot seat looks like a freakishly uncomfortable place to be. Will he post this on his page? pic.twitter.com/ZbLpo3Osu9
— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) April 10, 2018
10:10: Ranking Member Pallone (D-NJ) obsessed about 2016 and wants additional hearings with other tech executives about what went wrong in 2016. He wants “comprehensive legislation” to prevent another 2016. Pallone blames Republicans for being complicit in the “privacy by press release” cycle. Get the sense hearing will be more political than yesterday’s.
10 AM: Round Two: He’s back! Zuckerberg takes his seat before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) calls the Committee to order, as the questioning is about to start. Walden tells Zuckerberg he wants to discuss breaches of trust and the relationship between tech companies and its users. Walden says Facebook may have grown but may not have matured while breaking too many things. He wants to know what Facebook is–a social media company, advertising company, publisher, etc…
House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Greg Walden in his opening remarks on the second day of congressional hearings for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “While Facebook has certainly grown, I worry it may not have matured.” https://t.co/9objKj79lb pic.twitter.com/eRDHEmr5IS
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) April 11, 2018