“To be clear, we don’t offer an option today for people to pay to not show ads. We think offering people an ad-supported service is the most aligned with our mission of trying to connect everyone in the world, because we want to offer a free service that everyone can afford. That’s the only way we can reach billions of people.”
Key Highlights From Zuckerberg’s Testimony: No Monopoly, New Motto, GDPR Rules, Stock Spikes, & More
In what is being called a historic hearing, Mark Zuckerberg is being questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. You can watch the livestream over here or get major highlights from the hearing in this post.
FTC wasn’t alerted of the Cambridge Analytica data leak
When asked if Facebook notified the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) back in 2015 when it learned about the Cambridge Analytica data misuse, Zuckerberg said no, the company didn’t notify the agency because it “considered it a closed case.”
“We considered it a closed case. In retrospect that was clearly a mistake. We shouldn’t have taken their word for it.”
Would Facebook ever offer a paid service?
Senator Nelson asked if Facebook is considering a business model where users could pay for an ad-free service. The 33-year-old billionaire said that there will always be a version of Facebook that will be completely free for users. He added that Facebook doesn’t “offer an option today for people to pay to not show ads” hinting that company isn’t considering an ads-free subscription model.
“Yes, there will always be a version of Facebook that is free.”
When asked how Facebook funds its free platform, Zuckerberg said that the company relies on advertising.
“Senator, we run ads.”
GDPR privacy rules will be rolled out to everyone
As promised by Mark Zuckerberg last week, GDPR privacy rules will be rolled out to everyone. He added that while Facebook plans to implement GDPR rules for everyone, they might not be absolutely the same in every region.
“Everyone in the world deserves good privacy protections.”
Is Facebook a monopoly?
When asked by Senator Lindsey Graham if Zuckerberg thinks Facebook has been gobbling up companies that could be its competitors resulting in a complete monopoly, the Facebook chief said nope, he doesn’t believe if there is any monopoly.
So, Instagram – you bought Instagram. Why did you buy Instagram?
Zuckerberg: Because they were very talented app developers who were making good use of our platform and understood our values.
Sen. Graham started pushing Zuckerberg about who exactly he believes is his competitor or where a user has the option to go to if they want to leave Facebook. Zuckerberg didn’t really have any good answer but when pushed if Facebook was a monopoly, he said:
“It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me.”
Zuckerberg doesn’t know if Facebook tracks users’ devices…
Senator Cornyn asked if Facebook tracks users on devices where they use Facebook. While Zuckerberg tried to avoid responding by saying his team will get back on that.
Zuckerberg asked: “Would you be comfortable sharing the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?”
Obviously, after a pause, he responded with a big NO much to the amusement of the audience. He was then asked if Zuckerberg would be happy to share all the messages he sent to his friends last week.
Facebook’s new mantra? No more “breaking”
Facebook’s older motto of move fast and break things has remained in question in the past few weeks. Zuckerberg shared that the company’s new motto is “Move Fast With Stable Infrastructure.”
“We don’t sell data to advertisers”
Zuckerberg said that there is a big misconception around Facebook “selling” data to third party companies. He argued that the company helps others target its users but the data never leaves Facebook. Zuckerberg couldn’t clarify when asked why Aleksandr Kogan was allowed to get and sell data on Facebook users.
Is Facebook working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller
Senator Patrick Leahy asked if anyone at Facebook was working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Zuckerberg said yes that someone at Facebook is working with the Special Counsel, but it’s not Zuckerberg himself.
“I want to be careful here, because that work is confidential. We are in open session and I don’t want to reveal anything that is confidential.
“I have to clarify that I’m not sure that there are subpoenas, there may be.”
Senator Cruz implies Facebook is biased toward conservatives
Senator Ted Cruz asked Zuckerberg if Facebook was a neutral public forum and asked if any of its employees on the security team had funded a Republican. He then asked if Zuckerberg fired Palmer Luckey on political grounds. Zuckerberg strongly disagreed – perhaps his most strong reaction to a question throughout this session – and added that Luckey was not fired for his politics.
“I am very committed to making sure Facebook is platform for all ideas, that is a very important founding principal of what we do,” Zuck said. “We’re proud of the different discourse and ideas.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal giving Zuckerberg some tough time on “willful ignorance”
Senator Blumenthal asked several questions from the Facebook chief and also expressed his own concerns over how his “apology tour” potentially doesn’t mean anything.
“We’ve seen the apology tours before. You have refused to acknowledge even an ethical violation to report this violation of the FTC consent decree.
“My reservation about your testimony today is that I don’t see how you can change your business model unless there are specific rules of the road, your business model is to monetize information, to maximise profit over privacy and unless there are specific rules and requirements enforced by an outside agency, I have no assurance that these kinds of vague commitments are going to produce action.”
Discriminatory ads on the platform
Senator Chris Coon cited ProPublica’s reports raising concerns about ad targeting – how someone can say “I don’t want this particular thing to be seen by black people.” Coon talked about Facebook ad targeting tools that could be used to publish racially discriminatory ads that are in violation of federal civil rights law and that could be used to sow disruption in the public discourse.
He also cited about how he found accounts impersonating him only this morning. “At the end of the day, policies aren’t worth the paper they’re written on if Facebook doesn’t follow them,” he said.
“America is too big to be policed by a single powerful company”
Considering Facebook’s 2 billion users, it’s not just Americans but everyone around the world who is affected by Facebook’s policies and its decisions. “Facebook may decide it needs to police a whole bunch of speech that I think America may be better off not having a single company police…,” Senator Ben Sasse said talking about what the company considers hate speech.
Does Facebook plan to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for its extreme vetting process
Senator Mazie Hirono asked if the social network will be willing to cooperate with ICE using social media data to profile immigrants and potentially to deport them. Zuckerberg said Facebook wouldn’t “proactively” cooperate with ICE. However, he added that the company does provide data when presented with the government’s legal requests.
“Are you too powerful?” Senator Dan Sullivan asks Zuckerberg
While everyone believes Facebook is too powerful, Zuckerberg refers to how Chinese companies are going places and how Americans should be proud of Facebook.
Sullivan then referred to how big banks managed to control the sector and how Facebook’s power could actually negatively affect other American students in the dorms who might design the next Facebook.
“Regulation can cement the dominant power […] One of my biggest concerns is that the next Facebook, the guy in the dorm, that you are becoming so dominant that we won’t be able to have the next Facebook.”
Is Facebook a tech company or a publisher?
The question of whether Facebook should be considered a publishing company, not a tech company also came up. Zuckerberg insists that while Facebook is responsible for the content on the platform, it doesn’t make it incompatible with being a tech company.
Zuckerberg doesn’t know how long it takes for your data to be deleted once you #DeleteFacebook
When asked how long it takes Facebook to remove data from its platform once a user decides to leave it, Zuckerberg says he will need to get back on that because he isn’t really sure exactly how long does it take.
Does Facebook listen to your conversations through your mic?
Calling it a conspiracy theory, Zuckerberg said the only time Facebook can hear you is when you record a video through the app.
Senator John Kennedy: “Your user agreement sucks” and it needs to be in “English, not Swahili”
Senator Kennedy said that he doesn’t want to regulate Facebook but he will. He also asked Zuckerberg to go home and re-write his terms “in plain English” so people can actually understand what they are agreeing to.
He also asked if someone call Zuckerberg up to demand his file and whether he will be able to provide that file:
Zuckerberg: Absolutely not.
Kennedy: Could you do it?
Zuckerberg: Technically someone could do that but it would be a massive breach.
Kogan sold data not only to Cambridge Analytica but to other companies too
When asked if Aleksandr Kogan – the researcher who sold data to CA – sold this to any other companies as well, Zuckerberg said that Facebook is aware of a couple of other companies who also bought this data.
Are people really leaving Facebook?
When asked if there has been any significant decrease in the number of users on the platform after Cambridge Analytica data misuse, Zuckerberg said that is not the case.
Zuckerberg had said this last week too, suggesting that people aren’t actually leaving Facebook.
Facebook was hacked in 2013
Facebook CEO was asked if Facebook has ever been hacked. Apparently, the biggest social networking site did suffer from a malware attack but it wasn’t a serious one.
The attack happened in 2013 and only targeted Facebook employees, not users.
After five long hours, Zuckerberg finally gets to leave
And that is all, folks. The session ended with senators talking about the company’s bias and regulations. Thanks for following today’s hearing with us. You can watch this 5-hour long session in its entirety in the video shared above. If you are craving for even more, Zuckerberg will be facing the House Committee on Energy and Commerce tomorrow morning. You can find more details on live streaming tomorrow’s session here.
Update: It appears these easy questions and the time spent on Zuckerberg explaining to lawmakers how Facebook works more than what went wrong and how it should work is helping the company stock – FB’s having its best day in 2 years, with shares climbing 4.5% during the testimony.