Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been rather scarce lately, despite a host of woes besetting his company — but Wednesday he emerged from his cocoon to offer a limp apology, admit they had no control over data like that used by Cambridge Analytica, and that he “will happily” testify before Congress if he’s the right person to do so.
Well, Congress has taken him at his word. “You are the right person to testify before Congress,” wrote the leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a letter detailed early this morning. His capacity as CEO and “the employee who has been the leader of Facebook through all the key strategic decisions since its launch” make him the best person to testify.
Earlier this week Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kennedy (R-LA) from the Senate Judiciary Committee specifically asked for Zuckerberg as well.
Senator Kennedy had sharp words (in a CNN interview) for Facebook and other tech companies that sent along some smooth operators to talk to them back in November: “We had one hearing — they all sent their lawyers. I don’t know what they paid them but they got their money’s worth, cause their lawyers didn’t say a damn thing.”
He and others are asking that the man himself come along.
Kennedy said FB lawyers won’t do: “They didn’t say a damn thing, which was what they were paid to do,” he said about Nov. Russia hearings “I’d encourage Mr. Zuckerberg to do the common sense thing and roll up his sleeves and take a meaningful amount of time talking to us”
— CeciliaKang (@ceciliakang) March 23, 2018
The Senate Commerce Committee also desires his presence.
At this point it would be pretty dangerous for Zuckerberg not to heed the call. Lawmakers don’t take kindly to captains of industry who send underlings instead of tackling major issues like this personally.
As the Open Markets Institute’s Matt Stolller points out in an insightful tweet storm, however, the shortcomings of Facebook’s privacy rules are only part of the story. Once Congress has Zuckerberg in the hot seat, they might consider taking on the idea that Facebook has been playing news organizations and publishers like a fiddle.
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