This is the fifth article within the “Facebook in 2018” series inclusive of top issues, fundamental changes and expectations for the year. Click here to see a list of the other posts within this series.
On Wednesday, April 11, Chairman and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This was his second consecutive day testifying on Capitol Hill. A partial transcript of Zuckerberg’s testimony before the House is available here. This blog post, part of our “Facebook in 2018” series, highlights seven topics addressed during the hearing.
1. Current Concerns Are Not Restricted to Facebook
Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) opened the House session by expressing his desire to, “widen our lens to larger questions about the fundamental relationship tech companies have with their users.”
“Through innovation and quintessentially American entrepreneurial spirit,” Representative Walden elucidated, “Facebook and the tech companies that have flourished in Silicon Valley join the legacy of great American companies who built our nation, drove our economy forward and created jobs and opportunity. And,” he continued, “you did it all without having to ask permission from the federal government and with very little regulatory involvement.”
Reiterating this point of view throughout both of his days on Capitol Hill, Zuckerberg positioned Facebook as one of many.
2. “Technology Company” Does Not Appear to Be a Fitting Title for Facebook
“Facebook has created its own video series… Is Facebook a media company?” asked Representative Greg Walden (R-OR). “You can send money to friends on Facebook Messenger… Is Facebook a financial institution?” was Representative Walden’s next question.
“I consider us to be a technology company,” replied Zuckerberg, “because the primary thing we do is have engineers who write code and build products and services for other people.”
But just because Facebook has classified itself one way, it doesn’t mean its users (or our representatives in Washington) agree. A number of senators and House representatives queried Zuckerberg on this topic last week, and the definition of a technology company will likely be an ongoing debate.
3. Facebook Has Made a Number of Mistakes with Regard to Rejected Content
Diamond and Silk … a former Michigan Lottery commissioner running for state senate in Michigan … a Catholic university’s ad …
A list of “enforcement errors,” as Zuckerberg referred to them, were highlighted by Representatives last week. Zuckerberg apologized repeatedly and finally said, “I wouldn’t extrapolate from a few examples to assuming that the overall system is biased.”
4. Facebook Treats Minors (Ages 13-17) Differently than Adults… But Not Too Differently
During his House testimony, Zuckerberg confirmed for Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) that Facebook has measures in place to protect minors. Adults cannot contact minors they are not already friends with, and Facebook does not show inappropriate content to minors.
With regard to why they don’t do more, Zuckerberg noted, “The reality that we see is that teens often do want to share their opinions publicly.”
5. Facebook Is Not a Surveillance Organization
Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) asked, “Mr. Zuckerberg, what is the difference between Facebook's methodology and the methodology of the American political pariah, J. Edgar Hoover?” In reply, Zuckerberg said, “… people often ask what the difference is between surveillance and what we do. And I think that the difference is extremely clear.” Zuckerberg noted that Facebook users have complete control of their information, including what they share and what data is collected. In addition, Zuckerberg illuminated, “I know of no surveillance organization that gives people the option to delete the data that they have, or even know what they're collecting.”
6. Facebook Tracks Non-User Actions for Security Reasons
“Even when you’re not signed in,” illustrated Zuckerberg, “you can look up the information that people have chosen to make public on their page, because they wanted to share it with everyone… But, nonetheless, we don't want someone to be able to go through and download every single public piece of information. Even if someone chose to make it public, that doesn't mean that it's good to allow someone to aggregate it.”
To prevent the aggregation of data, Facebook tracks the number of pages accessed by individuals, including non-users.
7. Zuckerberg’s Personal Data Was Sold to Cambridge Analytica
“Was your data included in the data sold to the malicious third parties? Your personal data?” asked Representative Anna Eschoo (D-CA). Zuckerberg had a one-word reply: “Yes.”
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Click on the links below to read the other articles within the Facebook in 2018 series:
- Facebook in 2018: 4 Top Issues – published April 11, 2018
- Facebook in 2018: 4 Fundamental Changes – published April 12, 2018
- Facebook in 2018: 3 Expectations – published April 16, 2018
- Facebook in 2018: 5 Highlights from Zuckerberg’s Senate Hearing – published April 18, 2018
- Facebook in 2018: 7 Highlights from Zuckerberg’s 2nd Day on Capitol Hill – published April 19, 2018
- Facebook in 2018: 866 Million Pieces of Content + 583 Fake Accounts Removed in Q1 - published May 22, 2018
- Facebook in 2018: 3 Reasons Facebook is Still in the Hot Seat – published May 24, 2018
- Facebook in 2018: 6 Growth Signs that Indicate Facebook Is Too Big to Fail – published June 5, 2018