Mark Zuckerberg's Congress testimony: From data-breach to Mueller probe, here is what he said

Zuckerberg said that Facebook is helping Mueller's probe into Russian interference in US elections.

By: | Updated: 11 Apr 2018 09:47 AM
Mark Zuckerberg's Congress testimony: From data-breach to Mueller probe, here is what he said

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg listens during a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski

New Delhi: A two-day hearing of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg regarding the alleged hijacking of users’ data started on Tuesday, in US senate, where he disclosed the times when Facebook breached the line and apologised publically for the same.

Though Zuckerberg has apologised many times to the users, this was the first time he had gone before Congress. He is also supposed to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. During the congressional hearing about his organisation's alleged role in data breach and other cases, the young CEO was grilled intensely for five hours.

Zuckerberg was in the senate after he revealed that British firm Cambridge Analytica which is a data-mining firm harvested data of 87 million users across the world. He complied to testify before the senators after resisting several initial calls.

In the opening statements of his testimony he apologised for the numerous things Facebook could not keep control on, including hate speech, fake news, lack of data privacy, and Russian interference in 2016 elections on social media.

On data breach:

Zuckerberg said: “It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here." He assured that it is his company’s responsibility to ensure that something like this never happens again.

His opening statements largely focused on aplogising and to highlight the steps that the company has taken to control third party’s access to people’s personal information.

On Russian interference in US elections

Zuckerberg accepted Russian interference in 2016 US elections via social media and said that the company was too slow to respond and that it’s working hard to get better. He has accepted this in the past as well.

It is pertinent to note that Russian interference in US elections is a subject of many investigations by the Congress and the ongoing probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference. Facebook has informed that as many as 146 million people may have received information from a Russian agency that's accused of devising much of the cyber meddling in the election.

Zuckerberg said that Facebook will continue working with the government to understand the full extent of Russian interference and will do its part to ensure the integrity of free and fair elections.

He said "I want to be careful here because our work with the special counsel is confidential and I want to make sure that in an open session I'm not revealing something that is confidential."

On hate speech:

Zuckerberg promised to do more to tackle hate speech in Myanmar, as he was questioned about Facebook’s role in spreading hate content against Rohingya Muslims.

What's happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy, and we need to do more,  he told the US lawmakers when Senator Patrick Leahy asked him about Facebook's role as a breeding ground for hate speech against Rohingyas.

On being asked about Facebook’s role in inciting possible genocide in Myanmar, in wake of the tragic death of a Muslim journalist, Zuckerberg briefed the senate about what the company is doing.

He said, “One is we're hiring dozens of more Burmese-language content reviewers, because hate speech is very language-specific. It's hard to do it without people who speak the local language, and we need to ramp up our effort there dramatically.”

"Second we're working with civil society in Myanmar to identify specific hate figures so we can take down their accounts, rather than specific pieces of content. Third we're standing up a product team to do specific product changes in Myanmar and other countries that may have similar issues in the future to prevent this from happening.”

What Facebook is doing to prevent such mishap in future:

Zuckerberg referred to the new changes in the social networking site introduced post the Cambridge Analytica damage. These include making privacy shortcuts easier to find, restricting the data shared with developers when you log in using your Facebook account, labeling political ads and making them available for public inspection, and launching a bounty program to reward people who find examples of data misuse.
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