Zuckerberg testifies: Seven things to look out forNews 

Zuckerberg testifies: Seven things to look out for


Zuckerberg testifies: Seven things to look out for

Mark Zuckerberg Image copyright Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg has been preparing for his biggest test yet as Facebook chief executive – facing not one, but two congressional hearings.

Some view these sessions as little more than political theatre, a chance for politicians to be seen on TV berating the rich and powerful.

There might be some truth in that. But never have we had such unfiltered access to a man who is typically wrapped in cotton wool by his PR team and deputies.


His opening prepared statements have already been released.

But the marathon sessions scheduled on Tuesday and Wednesday will throw up far more.

Image copyright Getty Images

Facebook wasn’t the first company to make billions from gathering personal data and it won’t be the last.

5. Political showboating and bad questions

“It’s a simple yes or no question,” is a phrase beloved by politicians at these kinds of hearings. It’s most effective, of course, when asking a question that is anything but at simple yes or no.

Expect the more camera-keen representatives to go for this gotcha moment from the word go. They will want to be the soundbite in the evening news, or the clip that’s shared by millions on, ironically enough, Facebook.

Giving both barrels to one of Silicon Valley’s most influential figures makes great tape for any campaign ads ahead of this year’s midterm vote.

But this approach often leads to bad, sometimes misleading questions. Watch out for moments that may seem like major concessions by Mr Zuckerberg but are actually anything but.

I’d put good money on at least one representative asking “can you swear here today that Facebook will never sell user data?” – to which the answer is “of course”. Facebook hasn’t ever sold user data, it merely grants access to it.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mark Zuckerberg will ditch his trademark grey t-shirt for the hearings

6. A non-debate on regulation

Mr Zuckerberg will bring up the Honest Ads Act, a proposed law that would increase transparency around political advertising on the internet. It would bring the legislation more in line with what happens on television, where it’s made clear who has paid for the ad.

Backing this act is a shrewd PR move by Facebook. It gives Mr Zuckerberg the chance to say he is open to government regulation, while also avoiding any major impact on the way Facebook is run.

The changes Mr Zuckerberg has already put in place around campaign and “issue” ads means they are probably already in compliance with the measures the Honest Ads Act wants to introduce – or at not far off.

Don’t expect much progress when it comes to any other type of regulation debate.

Instead, we may get a few baby steps in the direction of what other kinds of regulation might look like, but Mr Zuckerberg will no doubt emphasise the work his company is already doing.

Image copyright Getty Images

7. A glance at the consent decree

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating whether Facebook violated a consent decree signed in 2011.

It’s a document that details an agreement to look after data in certain ways, and was drawn up after the FTC gave Facebook a telling off content that people thought and assumed was just being shared among friends was made public.

In short, Facebook agreed not to “misrepresent in any manner, expressly or by implication” how data collected would be used.

The company also promised to be absolutely frank with users about how they can proactive and reactively control how their private data is being used.

Given what we know now, lawmakers might be minded to ask Mr Zuckerberg if his company lived up to both of those important pledges.


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