In the latest stop of his apology tour, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg made his first appearance before the Congress. In his opening statements, Zuckerberg outlined the problems that Facebook is tackling and what it plans to do to prevent this from happening again.
Zuckerberg was grilled by 44 senators for his testimony.
Before Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the hearing, Senators made opening remarks. Senator John Thune from South Dakota said that the cause of the hearing was Facebook's breach of trust. Thune added that even though users consented to share their data, they were misled in the process.
In his opening testimony, Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook didn't do enough to prevent its tools from being used for harm. He adds that it still has work to do on the front of fake news, foreign interference, and hate speech.
Zuckerberg was grilled in Sheryl Sandberg's comments about paying to have privacy on social media. Zuckerberg defended the right of Facebook to be able to charge users not to use user's private data. He said that Facebook doesn't offer a pay service at the moment. He also stressed that it uses this data to keep Facebook free.
Later, Zuckerberg was asked again if he will keep Facebook free. He answered by saying that there will always be a version of Facebook that is going to be free. When pushed as to how a different version of Facebook may work, he answered that Facebook would use ads.
Senator Lindsey Graham questioned Zuckerberg about Facebook being a monopoly. When asked if he would welcome regulation, he said that he would welcome the right regulation.
Throughout the testimony, Zuckerberg was contrite in answering the questions presented to him. At every opportunity, he would take the chance to apologize for what happened. Zuckerberg often stressed that Facebook would be behind the right piece of legislation.
In a bizarre moment, Senator Ted Cruz accused Facebook of stifling conservative content on the website.
Why It Matters
Americans are split on whether the government should be able to regulate the tech companies. Almost half said that they would support regulation targeting news feeds, search engine results, or advertising based on political affiliations or viewpoints, more than half opposed the regulation.
Facebook is one of the largest companies in the United States. It is one of the five tech companies along with Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon — the largest American corporations by stock value. Lawmakers have been slow to do anything, while the companies have been able to collect vast amounts of data on the general public.
More focus was brought on tech companies for the roles that Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter played in influencing the election. The last time that the three companies were called before Congress, was when they sent their lawyers instead of their chief executives. Members of Congress were not happy with the move.
As more information is discovered about foreign interference in the election, Facebook has been on the backfoot apologizing each time. Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress to show that the tech companies are fearing impending legislation.