Everything that Happened with Mark Zuckerberg in Congress

Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress on April 10 and 11 drew in live watch parties across the country. His two days in the hot seat were followed by memes of him drinking water, booster-seat jokes, an SNL skit, protests and speculation of the hearing as the subject of the sequel to “The Social Network,” but what actually surfaced from the two days in court?

Why was Mark Zuckerberg testifying again?

On March 16, Facebook announced that it was suspending Strategic Communication Laboratories, a data firm, and its’ subsidiary -- Cambridge Analytica. According to Facebook, a Russian-American psychology professor by the name of Aleksandr Kogan used a third-party app to create a personality quiz that harvested data from voluntary users on Facebook. Kogan then handed that data over to Cambridge Analytica. Learning of this trade-off in 2015, Facebook shut down the app and asked Cambridge Analytica to delete all the harvested data - they did not.

An investigation by the New York Times, in partnership with the Observer of London, found that Cambridge Analytica had garnered data from 50 million American Facebook users through Kogan’s app. Cambridge Analytica used the data to create targeted ads to promote Donald Trump before the 2016 presidential elections. Zuckerberg has apologized numerous times on behalf of the social network and says that he is working with his company to ensure no meddling in the 2018 midterm elections.

Photo courtesy of Meets Media

What happened at the testimony?

Zuckerberg testified before the Senate on April 10 midst a media frenzy. “Let me just cut to the chase,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) said in the beginning moments. “If you and other social media companies do not get your act in order, none of us are going to have privacy anymore. That’s what we’re facing.”

In his testimony, Zuckerberg mentioned his sole leadership position at Facebook, which has been the subject of scrutiny before. As the sole leader, he is responsible for what is and is not allowed on the site. Trump has even criticized Zuckerberg for this, accusing him of favoring left-leaning posts on Facebook rather than right-wing ones. Zuckerberg, more or less, denied this.

Here are the highlights from the Q&A session between each Senator and Zuckerberg:

  • Zuckerberg said that Facebook was not aware of any other companies or individuals following the same actions of Cambridge Analytica, though his company was investigating this.

  • A few senators were not aware of how Facebook worked, with one asking how Facebook sustains itself as a business, to which Zuckerberg replied, “Senator, we run ads.”

  • In an exchange with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Graham insinuated that Facebook had become a monopoly, which Zuckerberg denied.

  • Zuckerberg said that Facebook will not assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement by revealing their social media data to law enforcement.

  • Zuckerberg also said that he is committed to protecting civil rights activists from being targeted on Facebook, repeating that Facebook only helps law enforcement look into personal data when legally required to.

  • Addressing the popular conspiracy theory that Facebook listens in to users’ private conversations through their downloadable mobile app, Zuckerberg denied that this was done, despite ads that have been scrutinized for being “coincidental.”

  • Zuckerberg said that he is open to regulating Facebook’s content so long as it is the right form of regulation.

  • Zuckerberg announced that there had not been any change in the amount of Facebook users since the Cambridge Analytica scandal had been revealed. Though, the company did suffer in their stocks after this information came to light.

On the topic of stocks, during Zuckerberg’s two-day hearing, totaling 10 hours, the billionaire reportedly made $3 billion in his stock growth on Facebook alone. This means that investors’ faith has been renewed in the tech company, rendering Zuckerberg the “winner” in the testimonial match.

Photo courtesy of Recode

On April 11, Zuckerberg continued his testimony. This time before the House of Commerce Committee. Here are a few of the highlights from the Q&A session between Zuckerberg and the representatives:

  • Zuckerberg denied that Facebook was a media company, asserting that it is actually a tech company.

  • Zuckerberg clarifies for the umpteenth time that Facebook does not sell user data to outside companies. However, it does use your data, such as email addresses, for targeted advertising. Learn more about how it does that here.

  • Again, Zuckerberg insists that Facebook is not a monopoly, saying that the average American uses eight different social media apps. However, this response has been criticized by many.

  • On whether Facebook is planning on suing Cambridge Analytica: “It’s something that we’re looking into.”

  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) compared Facebook’s lack of obvious privacy features to that of “The Truman Show.”

  • Zuckerberg said that Facebook was looking into the “handful” of companies Kogan sold user data to besides Cambridge Analytica.

All in all, Zuckerberg did a great job at not entirely answering questions, but holding his own. The future of Facebook is still up in the air, and the question remains. Will the billionaire resign from the company or will the site instill regulations measures?