On Tuesday, April 10, Mark Zuckerberg went to Washington D.C. to testify in Congress. And as the Facebook co-founder and CEO went to Washington, Twitter went off, in typical social media form. Zuckerberg was there to testify before the Senate judiciary and commerce committees on Tuesday afternoon about user privacy on the massive social media platform. But as the public-facing founder of one of the most fundamental pieces of modern society (whether you like it or not), internet people have created a persona out of the soft-spoken CEO, and the tweets about Zuckerberg testifying in Congress on Tuesday were brutal.
Zuckerberg was called to Capitol Hill following a scandal around a company called Cambridge Analytica, which allegedly used Facebook to improperly get user data. This company has been linked to the Donald Trump presidential campaign, although they have maintained that the controversial data was not used for the campaign. "Cambridge Analytica fully complies with Facebook’s terms of service and is currently in touch with Facebook following its recent statement that it had suspended the company from its platform, in order to resolve this matter as quickly as possible," Cambridge Analytica said in a statement in March.
The company allegedly obtained the data through a quiz on a third-party app that users authorized. This week, Facebook notified users whose data had been obtained through that app. This is just one part of the actions Facebook is taking in response to the reports that up as many as 87 million users' data may have been obtained by Cambridge Analytica. Facebook's actions include investigating third-party apps to see how they are used.
"It's clear now that we didn't do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well," Zuckerberg said in his prepared testimony on Tuesday. "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."
As the testimony started on Tuesday, many creatives on Twitter were struck by the image of Zuckerberg, seated, being photographed by a mass of photographers.
Many people were simply fascinated by the look on Zuckerberg's face as the panel began and theorized as to what he was thinking.
Others got to memeing the look.
Some people were impressed by Zuckerberg's apparent self-control.
... And other people were less impressed.
The testimony really brought viewers back to our social media roots. And those roots looked good.
Overall, Zuckerberg was basically in a no-win situation when it came to his reception on social media.
He ended up in a sticky corner as more and more information has come out about how much user data is being used by Facebook and third-party apps, how that data is collected, and how it is ultimately used. This comes as people are examining the use of Facebook to potentially sway elections and looking into how the platform can be used to influence people — potentially by unfriendly foreign actors.
But Zuckerberg was also in a no-win situation because of the legend around him. While tons of people around the world have an idea in their heads of what he's like, most don't actually know him. Zuckerberg himself, especially in recent years, has cultivated a pretty composed portrait of himself. But the world has a whole different idea of what he's like because of the movie The Social Network, which depicts a fictionalized, extremely memorable version of him. So really, no matter what, Zuckerberg was doomed to be lambasted by Congress and on social media. And at the end of the day, he was the one who made us want to share experiences on social media in the first place.