This morning, Facebook CEO and Chairman, Mark Zuckerberg fronted a marathon joint hearing with the US Senate Judiciary Committee “Facebook, Social Media Privacy and the use and Abuse of Data”. Lasting more than 5 hours, Zuckerberg answered questions on how his company is responding to increasing concerns about privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Zuckerberg faced relentless questions, many of which were attacking and pointed, while others were clueless from people who clearly have never used Facebook or installed mobile apps on their phone.
Zuckerberg generally did a great job at responding to the difficult questions, many times pointing to the changes they’ve already implemented to restrict developer access to just the user who authorizes an app, rather than including their friends social graphs as well.
Often Zuckerberg was asked to comment on what legislation should be implemented to prevent future data leaks. The most immediate piece was a law that will see advertising platforms like Facebook (and Google) be forced to understand who is purchasing political and issues-based ads. Zuckerberg suggested that was something Facebook would back and implementation would involve sending verification to a physical address, much like the way Google authenticates Businesses. Political advertising in print, radio and TV has required this for decades and its a natural extension to include digital advertising in this. Zuckerberg also extend to admins of pages and groups with large follower counts.
At times the questions were cringe worthy, particular the line of questioning about competitors. One senator asked who Facebook’s biggest competitor was, which there’s obviously no answer to, you can’t simply leave Facebook, join another social media service and get a 1:1 experience. Facebook’s dominant and there’s no way around that, this isn’t like buying a car and being unhappy, then buying a competitor’s product, it doesn’t work like that. Facebook has critical mass with around 2 Billion active users across the world.
Throughout the hearing only handful of the dozens of questioners actually understood the technology enough to ask intelligent questions. Despite this, Zuckerberg did a great job at explaining how the service worked at the most basic level, that users always have control over what audience they share content with.
Overall Zuckerberg did a great job at confessing Facebook has shortcomings, identifying their investments in humans to review more content flagged by users (hiring 20,000 staff) and that the company is making large investments into AI.
Facebook is and will continue to use artificial intelligence to proactively detect fake news, hate speech, terrorism and explicit content, to stop it before it is ever seen by a single user.
The full recording of this session is available to watch at the link below.