The United States Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees have embarked on enquiries against Facebook Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg over the Facebook’s (FB) role in the latest Cambridge Analytica scandal, Russian activity in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and users’ data and privacy in general.
Zuckerberg is also scheduled to appear before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committees tomorrow, Wednesday to discuss to answer queries on the same issue.
A senior senator from Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson, said before the Facebook chief executive: “if you and other social media companies don’t get your act together, none of us are going to have privacy anymore.”
Zuckerberg had initially stuck closely to his prepared remarks, which were released Monday, saying: “just recently, we’ve seen the #metoo movement and the March for Our Lives, organized, at least in part, on Facebook. After Hurricane Harvey, people raised more than $20 million for relief.”
In the prepared speech, Zuckerberg went on: “and more than 70 million small businesses now use Facebook to grow and create jobs. 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.”
During the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees’ back-and-forth with Facebook’s chief executive, Zuckerberg emphasized his goal of informing users about the different ways in which in their data could be used.
He also discussed the challenges of balancing being explicit with privacy policies with making those same policies simple and accessible enough for users to understand.
Zuckerberg also discussed how much Facebook has evolved since he started the social network from his Havard dorm room in 2004. Back then, when Facebook was an exclusive, college-only social network, policing content was a matter of having Facebook users flag content to be taken down. Flash-forward 14 years, however, and Zuckerberg emphasized such methods simply aren’t enough.
“What I think we’ve learned now … is that we need to take a proactive broader role,” Zuckerberg explained. We need to take a more proactive role in policing the ecosystem and making sure members of the community are using the ecosystem in a way that is healthy.”
To wit, Zuckerberg explained that some of the measures Facebook is taking to thwart future activity from bad actors. The social network is using artificial intelligence, for instance, to identify classes of bad activity and flag it to Facebook, and by the end of 2018, Facebook will employ over 20,000 people focused on security and reviewing content.
Zuckerberg’s two-day appearance follows a number of media appearances and press calls where he apologized and admitted mistakes in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which involved the improper release of personal information of as many as 87 million users to the political consultant. The admission contrasts his previous response to the manipulation of Facebook’s platform for political purposes during the 2016 elections. At that time, Zuckerberg denied that Facebook was helping to deliver “fake news.” Now that Zuckerberg is addressing that there is a problem and even outlined steps that Facebook is taking to protect user data, the company may be able to make it through this rough patch.
On Monday, Facebook also announced that it would be notifying users via their news feed if their data was compromised in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But as of last night, according to one report, there was no sign of any users receiving such a notification. This morning, Yahoo Finance noticed via Twitter that people were beginning to receive the notice. And hours before the hearing, Facebook unveiled a “data abuse” bounty program to reward people who report app developers that abuse data.
Facebook shares, which are off about 10% from its high, were trading up around 2% this morning.