Mark Zuckerberg got grilled by Congress. Was it worth it?

Mark Zuckerberg got grilled by Congress. Was it worth it?
From Engadget - April 13, 2018

Mr. Zuckerberg's ten hours of dodging lawmakers' questions in the proverbial hot seat evoked the internet's best memes about aliens who fool humanity into becoming food. The Cirque du Dystopia atmosphere was enhanced by Zuckerberg's actual seat, which was fitted with a booster cushion to make him appear taller. His wee seat certainly distracted press from the truly freaky attempts at misdirection flowing from his face hole.

Much virtual ink was spilled fussing over the 33-year-old boy billionaire wearing a suit like a grown-up man to talk to the adults. Wow! They grow up so fast on those diets of purloined data! But yes: he sat on a booster seat, which may have actually been a wireless charging station. And while Zuckerberg let slip little things like his belief that Facebook is basically above the law, far too many writeups goggled at his silly big-boy chair.

It's a carefully cultivated image. An indulgence granted to a certain kind of white startup jock who gets endless chances to drunk-drive democracy and human rights, as if he's a freshman intern just learning the ropes of ethics, trust, and professionalism. An image Zuckerberg himself perpetuated throughout the hearing by mentioning Facebook's college dorm room creation myth on a loop. (See also: "Mark Zuckerberg Cited For Contempt Of Congress After Refusing To Shut The Fuck Up About How He Started Company In Dorm Room.")

Getting a good, long look at him unsettled much of the general population. Much ado was made of his thousand-yard stare and robotic enjoyment of human water. Star Trek Next Generation fans were rankled by his uncanny resemblance to Data. But any real story lay in Zuckerberg's responses, which infuriated the bipartisan assembly with clumsy, repetitive avoidance tactics and bizarre, often fact-challenged admissions.

When not clamming up like a busted murder suspect when lawmakers mentioned Palantir, that is.

Let's just say that fact-checking in the aftermath is not looking good. Zuckerberg said he'd never heard of Facebook's "shadow profiles," causing The Guardian to get whiplash from their double-take. He claimed that everyone consents to giving Facebook their data, despite also saying that Facebook tracks non-users for reasons of "security" ... and commercial purposes. That's like consent, right?

Anyway. He practically did a "look, shiny!" when asked about Facebook's tracking of logged-off users. His answer was politely described as "vague" in presseven though Facebook has been caught doing exactly this, and repeatedly, and their continual activity doing so was ruled illegal. Hey: keeping up with headlines about your own company, one that you lovingly started in your dorm room because you really care about human connection, is hard when you are a genius. And when asked about collecting transaction data? Nah, he said he did not think they did that, nope. But maybe Mark should have checked out Facebook's website before his big day. The Guardian did and Facebook says it does exactly that on its website.

He almost broke the brains of fact-checkers at the New York Times, too. Mr. Zuckerberg told lawmakers that his company first learned of Russia's Facebook influence operations "Right around the time of the 2016 election itself." Prior to this week, that answer used to be 2017. When he told lawmakers "We made changes in 2014 that would have prevented what happened with Cambridge Analytica from happening today," NYT was like, yeah ... not so much. The paper flat-out said Zuckerberg's statement "Cambridge Analytica was not using our services in 2015 as far as we can tell" is false.

And pretty much everyone on the planet laughed when he said "You are not allowed to have a fake account on Facebook."

There's much more, but you get the (distorted) picture. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook is a different Facebook than the one we are all talking about. At this point, this is the only explanation that makes sense.

To put it lightly, like the suggestion of a gentle and invisible breeze, or the concept of consent to a Facebook employee, lawmakers were not pleased with Zuckerberg's fact-challenged testimony. A few even called him on it. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) skewered Zuck's claim that Facebook notified the Trump and Clinton campaigns of Russian attempts to hack in to those campaigns. "But representatives of both campaigns, in the last 24 hours, have said that did not happen," he said. "So we are going to follow up on that and find out what the real story is."

In the cut of it all, lawmakers drew out some crazy stuff. When asked to define hate speech, Zuck said it was a hard question (it's not). He said he believes he's more responsible with the personal data of millions of Americans than the Federal governmentprobably not a good look when you are pretending to obey laws. He admitted there was a discussion in which the company decided not to inform users about Cambridge Analytica.

Generally, Mr. Zuckerberg did what he could to say "regulation is good" while wholly avoiding saying he would support legislation to get user consent for use of their information.


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