Mark Zuckerberg got his hair cut, put on his big boy suit and best cherub-in-the-headlights expression and faced Congress, insisting, ad nauseam, lest the American public didn’t hear it the first several times, that “For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can do… It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm, as well.”
Meanwhile, this just in: Facebook is using AI to predict users’ future behavior and selling that data to advertisers, according to the MIT Technology Review.
Then again, he wasn’t under oath.
Let’s be fair:
Facebook always meant to use its power for good instead of evil and election meddling. They were simply too trusting that the platform would foster only sunshine and good wishes. Who ever thought bad actors would show up? But lest we forget, when Zuckerberg launched Facebook precursor Facemash at Harvard, he broke into the university’s computers, stole students’ data and was nearly expelled. So much for all the good that connecting people can do, when you take their privacy and post their personal information, in this case (too) without their consent, for your own purposes. And if you can get away with it once, just keep going and don’t look back.
Whatever Zuck didn’t want to confirm in Washington, he denied (Zuckerberg denies knowledge of Facebook shadow profiles). And of course he didn’t mean to censor conservative vloggers, like Diamond and Silk. For others of you who may have experienced the same frustrations in your attempts to get Facebook to respond to your queries as to why your content has been deemed ‘inappropriate,’ it seems that all it takes to rectify the situation is a Congressional inquiry. Now we know. Problem solved!
Which in itself is proof, in our opinion, of the need for regulation or at least independent oversight of the platform.
Our Personal Favorite Moment
When Zuckerberg was asked if Facebook is a monopoly, he replied, “It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me.” What he didn’t say: “Hell, no. Know how much I have to spend buying up potential competitors? Instagram, Whatsapp. Tried buying Snap, too, but that didn’t work out, so we just watch what they’re doing and copy it, so glad that they’re still around: they’re now our outsourced product development department – at no cost to us! I’m sure there are others I’m missing. We’ll find them. We’ll buy them. Or destroy them. Whatevs.”
For the record, he never answered the question.
Most Egregious Moment
When Zuckerberg was asked whether he would support legislation that would regulate Facebook. Who are the regulators/decision makers here???
Then again, FACEBOOK Gave LARGE SUMS Of Money To 85% Of House Members Who Questioned CEO Zuckerberg This Past Week. Question asked and answered. Apologies.
Speaking of which, many of the committees members were fairly clueless about technology (“how does Facebook make money”???). On balance, a great argument for term limits.
The New and Improved Zuckerberg
We were also privileged to witnessed the New and Improved Mark, who replaced his usual apologies with his newly-minted ‘I’ll have to get back to you’ mantra. In fact, here is A Comprehensive List of (the 43 things) Mark Zuckerberg Will Follow Up On.
Zuckerberg knows the all of the problems Facebook has and the deceptions that they’ve practiced, and has known about them forever. Hence the unending string of apologies over the years and the apology tour – all of which seems to have served him well, since the problems never seem to be addressed, or the technology merely repurposed under another name. As Alison Griswald noted in Quartz re Zuckerberg’s performance – and make no mistake about it: it was very much a performance and little more – “If you can only view your failures as an unforeseen consequence of good intentions, how can you ever really hope to change?”
Listening to Zuckerberg’s statements in Washington, you’d think that Facebook harbors only good intentions. The Congressional committees were showered with those sentiments.
As is the road to hell.
Onward and forward.