Mark Zuckerberg was challenged over “alarming reports of breaches of trust between your company — one of the biggest and most powerful in the world — and its users,” as a Republican lawmaker opened a second straight day of congressional hearings for the Facebook Inc. co-founder.
Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also said Wednesday that the panel intended “to widen our lens to larger questions about the fundamental relationship between tech companies and their users.
Zuckerberg returned to the Capitol after enduring hours of questioning in a Senate hearing Tuesday where he defended the social network’s value and pledged to correct its mistakes. Some senators came away unpersuaded and called for regulating the company and its online peers.
Zuckerberg’s trip to Washington came after weeks of damaging reports about the social network’s data practices. Information from as many as 87 million users was siphoned to Cambridge Analytica, a British firm with ties to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. In addition, Russian operatives used bogus accounts in an effort to sow discord and shape voter opinion during the campaign.
The House panel’s top Democrat, Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey, called Wednesday for “comprehensive legislation to prevent incidents like this in the future.”
Among questions fired at Zuckerberg — who revealed that his own Facebook data was sold to malicious parties — and his responses:
HPallone asked for a yes-or-no answer on whether he’d commit to changing default settings to minimize the collection of users’ data. Zuckerberg demurred, saying, “This is a complex issue that I think deserves more than a one-word answer.” The lawmaker called that answer disappointing.
— Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, pulled out his phone and read a constituent’s question about Facebook silencing conservative commentators known as Diamond & Silk. Zuckerberg called that an “an enforcement error” that’s been resolved.
— Walden pressed Zuckerberg on whether Facebook is a media company or a financial institution, categories that have traditionally faced federal regulation. He replied that it’s “a technology company, because the primary thing we do is have engineers that write code and build products.”
Zuckerberg met with a number of lawmakers ahead of the hearings in what amounted to a charm offensive for the 33-year-old entrepreneur who started the world’s largest social network in a Harvard dorm room.
Investors were reassured by Zuckerberg’s performance on Tuesday. Facebook shares jumped as Zuckerberg spoke to the senators, closing up 4.5 percent in New York trading. Facebook fell less than 1 percent Wednesday as Zuckerberg was questioned by the House panel.
At the Senate hearing, Zuckerberg said he was willing to consider new restrictions, and agreed to send suggestions to Congress. Senators signaled they may move to rein in Facebook, which has thrived as part of an online industry that’s largely escaped regulation.
“Your user agreement sucks,” Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, told Zuckerberg. “I don’t want to vote to have to regulate Facebook, but by God I will.”
Several Democratic senators called for regulation to protect users’ privacy, and to require more disclosure for online political campaign ads.
Facebook has disclosed that posts from a Russian company known for pushing Kremlin propaganda had reached the news feeds of 126 million users.