Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent several hours with members of the U.S. House of Representatives today answering questions about his company after Tuesday’s five-hour grilling by members of the Senate.
As expected, today’s meeting on Capitol Hill was a bit more heated, with some members of Congress taking a bit more of an antagonistic approach to their questions about user privacy and Facebook’s ability or inability to censor content. (At the end of the five-hour hearing, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., asked Zuckerberg for a list of other CEOs that should be questioned, perhaps hinting that Facebook might not be the only company coming under Congress’s microscope in the coming weeks and months.)
While there was a lot of overlap from Tuesday’s hearing, here are a few additional takeaways from today:
Zuck’s own data was taken by Cambridge Analytica
Early in Wednesday’s hearing, Zuckerberg was asked whether he was among the potentially 87 million users who had their data improperly sold to the British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica. After a brief pause, he said he was but didn’t elaborate. The admission comes just two days after Facebook started letting users know whether their personal information was among the massive trove of data put at risk by a mere 270,000 users downloading a personality quiz app in 2014.
The House is also considering regulation
On Tuesday, several members of the Senate suggested there might be a need to explore new legislation to protect user data and reign in the use of it by Facebook and other companies. Today was no different. Rep. Raul Ruiz, R-Calif., was among the lawmakers who asked why Facebook didn’t notify the Federal Trade Commission sooner when it learned user data was improperly taken from its platform. Ruiz asked Zuckerberg if there’s a need for some form of a “digital consumer protection agency.” Zuckerberg seemed to agree with the sentiment, adding that he’s not against all regulation.
A few lawmakers raised concern about illegal drugs advertised on Facebook. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., asked whether opioid ads should be allowed. Zuckerberg said the company’s policies already don’t allow them. However, McKinley then showed a photo displaying OxyContin ads that he said were recently on Facebook and suggested Facebook is hurting people by letting them through its filters.
A few members of the House used their four minutes of questioning to subtly hint at how Facebook might be able to partner on economic projects in their states. While Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., asked Zuckerberg to explain his definition of “misinformation,” he also suggested that some colleges in Virginia might be able to help Facebook with its drone project tasked with providing internet to communities without it. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said opening a Facebook office in his state might help Facebook better understand the middle of the country.
Media vs. tech company
Facebook was yet again asked the now age-old question of whether it considers itself to be a media company. Yet again, Zuckerberg said he doesn’t think it is.
“The primary thing that we do is have engineers that write code and build products and services for other people,” he said. “There are certainly other things that we do, too. We do help pay to help produce content. We build enterprise software, although I don’t consider us an enterprise software company. We build planes that help connect people, and I don’t consider ourselves to be an aerospace company. But overall, when people ask us if we’re a media company, what I hear is ‘Do we have a responsibility for the content that people share on Facebook?’ And I believe the answer to that question is yes.”
Free speech concerns
Several lawmakers criticized Zuckerberg for what they see as Facebook’s censorship of free speech—particularly conservative viewpoints. Zuckerberg said he thinks all viewpoints other than terrorism and hate speech should be allowed. However, at least two members of Congress brought up “Diamond and Silk,” a pair of African-American women who are pro-Trump video bloggers. Zuckerberg said Facebook’s system accidentally labeled their content as unsafe.
At one point, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., held up a pocket-sized version of the U.S. Constitution and said he would give Zuckerberg a copy when the hearing was over.
“I think the First Amendment does apply and will apply,” he said.