Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg answered questions before the House's Energy and Commerce Committee on whether the social media platform is doing enough to protect the privacy of its users in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
Data from around 87 million Facebook profiles were acquired by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm that was hired by President Trump's 2016 election campaign. While the hearing was in progress, Alexander Taylor, the acting CEO of the consulting company, stepped down.
Zuckerberg began by apologising to the House, as he had done with the Senate the previous day.
"It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here,” he said.
In his second day of questioning on Capitol Hill, which lasted around 5 hours, Zuckerberg faced a few recurring lines of questioning, including not only questions about the company's data collection practices, but also enquiries about an alleged anti-conservative stance and Facebook's role in the opioid crisis.
Lawmakers also asked the CEO questions regarding recruitment by terrorist organisations via the platform and how the ivory trade benefits from Facebook ads.
Members of the House suggested that perhaps financial penalties would be the only way to prevent an event like this in the future.
As the hearing ended, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) wondered aloud if other tech CEOs could help the Committee better understand the issue of data protection.
10:05 a.m. EST
"We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility and that was a big mistake."
10:28 a.m. EST
"The reality that we see is that teens often do want to share their opinions publicly."
10:32 a.m. EST
“There is a control right there, not buried in the settings, when they’re posting about who they want to share it with.”
“We removed the option for advertisers to exclude ethnic groups from targeting.”
10:50 a.m. EST
"We do not allow hate groups on Facebook overall."
"This has become a top priority for our company to prevent that from happening ever again," said Zuckerberg in reference to foreign entitities buying political ads on Facebook.
10:55 a.m. EST
"I see an app, I want it, I download it," said Rep. Michael Burgess. (R-TX)
"A lot of people probably just accept terms of service without going through it."
10:59 a.m. EST
"We're going to put at the top of the app a tool to walk people through the settings."
"We've had the ability to download your information for years now."
11:01 a.m. EST
"Who owns the virtual you? Who owns an individual's presence online?,"asks Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
"I can't let you fillibuster right now," said Blackburn when Zuckerberg started to give an example.
"We don't think about what we're doing as censoring speech," said Zuckerberg, noting that Facebook filters out terrorism-related content.
"Diamond and Silk is not terrorism," responded Blackburn, referencing the Republican YouTube duo who has had videos flagged as "unsafe" by the social media platform's algorithm.
11:16 a.m. EST
Zuckerberg was asked if he is notified of violatations through the press. "Sometimes, we do."
11:20 a.m. EST
"You cared more about getting developers on your platform than about your users," said Rep. Michael Doyle. (D-PA)
11:35 a.m. EST
"We know that having diverse viewpoints will help us serve our community better."
"This does not reflect America," said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, holding up a picture of the top 5 leaders at Facebook.
11:40 a.m. EST
"We now know that we should have a more restrictive platform."
"I think that everyone here would agree that trust is in short supply here," said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA)
"To me, if you own something, you ought to have some say about how it's used," she added in regards to consumers owning their personal data.
"One core tenant of our advertising system is that we don't sell data to advertisers. There is a core misunderstanding about how that system works."
12:00 a.m. EST
Rep. Leonard Lance (D-NJ) asked if Cambridge Analytica issue has violated a Federal Trade Commission agreement. "We do not believe it did," answered Zuckerberg. Rep. Lance disagreed with that position.
12:06 p.m. EST
"Facebook gathers data about where we travel, is that correct?" asked Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL). Zuckerberg said he "disagreed with that characterization."
Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) pointed to the convenience of having ads targeted to your preferences, asking if other tech companies used data for advertising as well.
While users can opt out of targeted ads, "most people don't do that".
Zuckerberg argued that the reason is that users want the targeted ads.
12:13 p.m. EST
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) asked if the CEO could say for sure that Facebook and its employees did not grant special approval rights to the Trump campaign and its advertising in 2016.
"We apply the same standards to all campaigns."
12:18 p.m. EST
Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) asked how this could happen with so much of Facebook's workforce dedicated to data security.
"No amount of people we hire will be enough" to monitor all the content on Facebook, answered Zuckerberg.
12:24 p.m. EST
Zuckerberg does not have an exact date for when US users can expect to receive protections.
"My position isn't that there should be no regulation."
"We have a strong incentive to protect people's information."
"I hear you saying this but the history isn't there," said Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA).
12:28 p.m. EST
"Your platform is being used to circumvent the law," said Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), referencing the opioid crisis and how he believes Facebook is aiding illegal online pharmacies.
Zuckerberg reiterated that there are not enough people to monitor everything, citing the need for more AI tools.
12:35 p.m. EST
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) asked what information Facebook makes available to Russian agencies.
"In general, we are not in the business of providing a lot of information to the Russian government."
12:41 p.m. EST
"You're collecting data about people who are not even Facebook users," said Rep. Ben Lujan.
While non-users can opt out, Rep. Lujan said that process was complicated and some may not think to do that since they do not have an account.
12:54 p.m. EST
"We have an epidemic here. We're owed a clear, definitive answer as to when these ads are offline," said Rep. Gus Bilrakis (R-FL), referring back to the digital pharmacy ads.
12:58 p.m. EST
Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY) asked what can be done immediately to identify propaganda.
Zuckerberg said that Facebook would verify the identity and location of every advertiser running political ads going forward.
1:04 p.m. EST
Rep. Bill Johnson asked about the process of flagging content, including religious and conservative posts taken down in his district.
A post from Franciscan University was taken down and only restored once it received press coverage, said Rep. Johnson.
1:10 p.m. EST
"Is it possible for Facebook to exist without selling our data?," asked Rep. David Loesback (D-IA), reading a question from one his constituents.
Zuckerberg reiterates that Facebook does not sell data.
1:14 p.m. EST
Rep. Billy Long (D-MO) had a large photo of Youtubers Diamond and Silk held up during his time, saying he believes conservative posts are flagged more often than liberal posts and would like to know why.
"You need to save your ship," warned Rep. Long, noting that he believes Congress either does nothing or overreacts and is preparing to overreact.
1:24 p.m. EST
Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) asks whether Facebook or any other company is listening to users through their phone, citing targeted ads and content about topics only spoken about verbally.
"Facebook doesn't do this and I'm not familiar with other companies that do either." Zuckerberg said he believes that it's a coincidence or users have looked up the topic elsewhere.
1:37 p.m. EST
"The underlying issue is that your platform has become a mix of news, entertainment, and social media that is up for manipulation," said Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA).
1:58 p.m. EST
Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) asked what Facebook is doing about terrorist organisations like ISIS recruiting members through the platform.
Facebook has a counterterrorism team of 200 people and AI tools can flag that content, answered Zuckerberg.
2:06 p.m. EST
Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) suggested that there should be a Consumer Digital Protection Agency.
2:38 p.m. EST
Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) asked Zuckerberg what elements of the General Data Protection Regulation, an EU regulation about data protection, can be brought into US law.
"People should have the ability to know what a company knows about them." Zuckerberg said the privacy tools should be easily accessible.
2:51 p.m. EST
Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) brought the line of questioning back to the opioid crisis. The Georgia representative also mentioned that he believes the ivory trade and movie piracy is being aided by Facebook.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) held up a copy of the Constitution and offered to give it to Zuckerberg, alleging that Facebook is anti-conservative in terms of the content that is flagged.
2:55 pm EST
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said Zuckerberg's answers were not reassuring and perhaps financial penalties would spur action.
3:00 pm EST
The hearing ended with Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) asking Zuckerberg to let him know which other tech CEOs the Committee would benefit from speaking with on the issue of data protection.
-- This story has been updated throughout the day with the latest developments.