Mark Zuckerberg Will Testify Before Congress & He Has Some Explaining To Do
Since the end of the 2016 presidential election, Facebook has been under constant scrutiny and pressure related to how its platform was used to influence the race. Now, that pressure looks like it has resulted in the company's CEO booking a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers. According to CNN's Dylan Byers, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress "within a matter of weeks."
The news was revealed in the Tuesday, March 27 edition of The Pacific, a CNN newsletter that focuses on tech industry news and its intersection with politics. According to Byers, Zuckerberg has "come to terms" with the fact that he'll have to visit Congress, and that the pressure hovering over Facebook became too much to resist answering to lawmakers.
Just a day before this latest report came, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced a hearing on the "future of data privacy in social media."
"The hearing will broadly cover privacy standards for the collection, retention and dissemination of consumer data for commercial use," a press release from Sen. Grassley's office reads. "It will also examine how such data may be misused or improperly transferred and what steps companies like Facebook can take to better protect personal information of users and ensure more transparency in the process."
While CNN's reporting is unclear about which date Zuckerberg plans to visit Congress, Grassley's hearing is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, April 10. Also invited to the hearing are Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO (slash founder) Jack Dorsey.
The hearing is intended to "how to develop 'rules of the road' that encourage companies to develop tailored approaches to privacy that satisfy consumer expectations while maintaining incentives for innovation."
According to CNN's Byers, sources inside Facebook believes that news of Zuckerberg's intentions to testify will put pressure on Google and Twitter's CEOs to testify as well.
The news of Zuckerberg heading to Congress comes after a whirlwind week that saw Facebook at the center of many unflattering headlines, especially related to work done on the platform by Cambridge Analytica.
Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on March 21 about Cambridge Analytica, "I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there's more to do, and we need to step up and do it."
On Monday, March 26, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it opened up an investigation into privacy practices at the company. Tom Pahl, the acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a statement, "the FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook. Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices."
"We remain strongly committed to protecting people's information," Facebook's deputy chief privacy officer Rob Sherman said in a statement obtained by CNN. "We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have."
On the same day, Facebook was the subject of scrutiny from Indianapolis Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Speaking at an awards dinner for political journalists, Warner said he is "flabbergasted that the CEOs of these companies seem to be happy to answer questions from their shareholders, but not from the lawmakers who represent all Americans," Warner said at the awards dinner for the Robin Toner Prize for political reporting, to an audience of elite journalists, per Axios.
Warner also reportedly added, "Companies like Facebook and Twitter and Google are American icons. I don’t have any interest in regulating them into oblivion. But as they’ve grown from dorm-room startups into media behemoths ... they haven’t acknowledged that that kind of power comes with responsibility."
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of 37 state attorneys general wrote a letter "demanding answers" from Facebook. “Businesses like Facebook must comply with the law when it comes to how they use their customers’ personal data,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement from the group. “State attorneys general have an important role to play in holding them accountable and I’m proud to partner with so many of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle in this effort.”
All the while, the price of Facebook's stock has seen the company shed tens of billions of dollars in value, a loss that has been triggered by the wave of negative news.
Now, it's clear what's next. Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, will head to Congress amidst pressure from Democrats and Republicans in Washington. When he does, he'll have a lot of explaining to do about the company's social media policies.