Mark Zuckerberg passed his first test of public testimony in the Senate. Now it’s time to meet the House of Representatives.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg went to Washington to face lawmakers, to apologize for Facebook’s recent missteps and to support (some) regulation of a tech industry that’s operated for years with little government oversight.
What he met was a room full of men and women who struggled to understand what Facebook does, how the social platform works and even how to regulate it.
During his second day of testimony, to begin early Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Zuckerberg will hope to escape relatively unscathed, as he did with the nearly four dozen Senators he faced for five hours on Tuesday.
And with good reason. Zuckerberg has worked to shore up Facebook’s image with regulators and investors by explaining how he plans to tighten data policies, protect users from further leaks and become more transparent about who’s advertising on his site. He also tried to rebuild user’s trust.
“I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here,” he said, in what has become his mantra through his apology tour. “It will take some time to work through all of the changes we need to make, but I’m committed to getting it right.”
Zuckerberg, 33, entered the hearing room tense and nervous, as he typically is, trading in his T-shirts and hoodies for a dark blue suit and blue tie.
But as the hearing dragged on, Zuckerberg seemed to settle into his role after receiving finger-wags from senators and answering oddball questions. His deer-in-the-headlights stare softened, he didn’t sweat profusely under pressure, and he didn’t appear to egregiously offend any of the lawmakers.
“If I had to grade him, I’d probably give him a C,” said Josh Migdal, an attorney with Mark Migdal & Hayden, a firm that specializes in consumer protection and regulation.
I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.
Mark Zuckerberg’s mantra during his apology tour
Others were more impressed. “He appeared focused, conciliatory and genuinely engaged in a productive discussion with legislators,” said Wells Fargo analyst Ken Sena, who has an “outperform” rating on Facebook’s stock. “This as a positive sign.”
Zuckerberg’s mixed reviews may have had something to do with the low expectations set by stories about his awkward demeanor and discomfort with the public spotlight.
Or perhaps it had to do with your politics. Amanda Werner, a 28-year-old from Long Beach, California, believed Zuckerberg’s testimony was “weak.”
Werner attended the hearing dressed in a fluorescent blue and green wig and Russian flag wrapped around her neck like a scarf — yup, a Russian troll. (Get it?) Werner has a flare for the dramatic, having dressed as the Monopoly man when former Equifax CEO Richard Smith was testifying before the Senate in October after the credit-monitoring company revealed that the records of more than 145 million people had been potentially stolen from its systems.
As with Equifax, Werner was not impressed with Facebook’s role in the fiasco.
“They knew about this for 27 months, and I just found out yesterday that my data was breached,” Werner said. “My data was breached with Equifax, too, so I was personally affected by both of these.”
Ultimately, the hearing came to a detente. Senators exposed themselves as not informed enough to take on Facebook seriously, and Zuckerberg wasn’t going to win too many of them to his side anyway.
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