Zuckerberg’s testimony before social-media unsavvy gerontocrats & shrewd politicians
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared for a testimony before the US Congress on Tuesday, April 10, to defend his company's position in the wake of the recent Cambridge Analytica (CA) data leak scandal and how did it ensure that its users' privacy wasn't compromised.
The hours-long affair was tedious as the Congress members grilled the 33-year-old entrepreneur on diverse issues. Zuckerberg was clearly feeling inconvenient with a lot of questions and he remained apologetic and defensive throughout. However, the Congress members who interrogated him weren't doing great either in grilling him on an issue on which they were not perfectly in tune.
The current US Senate has an average age of 62-plus which makes it the oldest in history and it was clearly showing that the interlocutors did not have great grip on the subject of social media in depth.
They were asking questions more about Facebook's 'free' business model and the ethical and legal aspects and this worked in favour of Zuckerberg who kept on reiterating that he would come back with his plan to deal with a particular problem in question. The lawmakers' limitations were visible when they could not push Zuckerberg beyond a certain point - may be because they are too old to grab the modern-day discipline of social media.
Ted Cruz grilled Zuckerberg better but more about the politics
However, Zuckerberg faced his toughest customer in Ted Cruz, the Texas governor who is known for his caustic interrogation. The 47-year-old former solicitor general of Texas was clearly prepared with his plan of attack and Zuckerberg looked off guard for some time once Cruz unleashed his canon of interrogation.
Although no mention about Cruz's relationship with CA even before the Trump campaign had its connection with it came up during the interrogation, the Texas governor made the talks more political to show his strength as a politician vis-à-vis a non-political opponent.
His questions like "Does Facebook consider itself a neutral public forum?" or ""Are you a First Amendment speaker expressing your views or are you a neutral public forum allowing everyone to speak?" were seen as pertinent ones, more politically pointed than the technically confusing questions some other members but one felt Cruz was more interested to settle a political battle with Facebook which he thought exhibited a bias on the political question.
Zuckerberg even conceded that Silicon Valley was more of a Left-leaning place when replying to Cruz's allegations that Facebook and other tech companies were believers in a "pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship".
But he tried to stick to a politically non-controversial stand when Cruz asked whether he knew about the political orientation of Facebook's huge content review team.
Cruz was clearly making a campaign-sort of thing ahead of his re-election bid in Texas this November by trying to prove that Facebook had little concern for the Republicans. But his effort not only revealed a form of hypocrisy since Cruz reportedly took $7,500 in donations from Facebook during his 2012 election campaign but also a kind of interrogation with a pre-defined goal.
While other members of the interrogation still tried to make Zuckerberg ensure that he would do his best to prevent more damage as has been caused by the CA episode, Cruz was more engaged in the political part and interested to expose Facebook in an ideological battle.
It is always going to be futile because Zuckerberg can't control human thinking even if he has the best of technology at his disposal and could only recruit robots to run his company and please people like Cruz.