Facebook & Congress

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Mark Zuckerberg got called before congress (a couple times)... he got bullied by congress, for all the wrong things. Congress is not filled with the technically knowledgable. Mark dodged and lied about censorship and bias, he looked like a robot (which didn't help with the meme folks), but in the end, he defended the Internet, Freedom of speech, the gig-economy, and advertising... just poorly. Fortunately, the Congress was even less focused, so it may have been "good enough". But we have a long list of dodges, lies, and obfuscations. Those lies/obfuscations will come out over time, and that will work against him and the Internet Freedom in the long term, because those with the most invested in it (like Google, Facebook, Twitter) are such lousy stewards of Freedom of Speech.

List of dodges


This isn't completely fair, as in a CEO shouldn't be expected to know everything that goes on in his company. But there's a lot of these he should have been far more prepared for. So I have no problem with "I'll have to get back you" answer a few times, but after a few dozen, it starts to become a mockery of itself.

  • All the apps Facebook has banned for improperly sharing user information with third parties.
  • How many times Facebook has required audits of apps to make sure improperly transferred data was deleted.
  • How many fake accounts Facebook has removed.
  • Whether Facebook employees worked alongside Cambridge Analytica when they embedded with the Trump campaign in 2016.
  • Whether Facebook Messenger collects call and text data from minors for account syncing.
  • Whether Facebook can “track a user's Internet browsing activity, even after that user has logged off of the Facebook platform.”
  • How Facebook discloses that kind of tracking to its users.
  • Whether a specific set of “unverified, divisive pages” of Facebook users, shown on a large poster board, were in fact Russian-created groups.
  • Specific regulations that Facebook would propose for the tech industry.
  • Where the 87 million people impacted by the Cambridge Analytica fiasco are geographically located.
  • Whether he would support a rule to require notifying users of a breach within 72 hours.
  • Whether and how Facebook tracks users across devices. (In fairness, the wording here wasn’t very clear.)
  • Whether Facebook is a neutral public forum or engaged in free speech (specifically as relates to Section 230 immunity under the Communications Decency Act; Zuckerberg did say that he thinks Facebook is “a platform for all ideas”).
  • Whether Aleksandr Kogan, the developer who sold the data of millions of Facebook users to Trump-affiliated political firm Cambridge Analytica, still has a personal Facebook account.
  • How many data points does Facebook collect on its users
  • Details around how to protect minors
  • How Zuckerberg sees Facebook’s recently announced bug bounty in the context of “the sharing of information not permissible, as compared to just unauthorized access to data.”
  • The details around if and how Facebook would allow civil rights groups to audit credit and housing companies that operate on the platform.
  • How many Nevada residents were among the 87 million Facebook users caught up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
  • How long Facebook retains a user’s data after they delete their account. (The best Zuckerberg could offer: “I think we try to move as quickly as possible.”)
  • The set of principles Facebook will use to guide its development of artificial intelligence.
  • What firms Kogan sold the data of up to 87 million Facebook users to, in addition to Cambridge Analytica and Eunoia.
  • More information about how Facebook can be confident that its political ad restrictions really have blocked out foreign entities.
  • If Facebook would “please bring some fiber”—high-speed internet—to West Virginia.
  • Exactly how Facebook’s systems work when you attempt to wipe your data, as part of deleting your account.
  • Details around potential legislation that would codify that people own their online data, and require platforms to offer more opt-in settings.
  • Why Zuckerberg can’t give a one-word answer to the question of whether he would commit to “changing all user default settings to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, the collection and use of users' data.”
  • Why Facebook blocked an ad from a former Michigan Lottery commissioner announcing his run for state senate.
  • More detail about how Facebook’s AI tools help catch fake accounts from Russia or elsewhere.
  • If and how Facebook plans to implement the portion of Europe’s GDPR—a sweeping digital privacy law—that gives users the right to object to the processing of their personal data for marketing purposes in the US.
  • Whether Facebook uses data that’s collected from logged off users only for security purposes or as “part of the business model” as well.
  • Whether the person (or people) who mistakenly banned popular conservative duo Diamond and Silk on Facebook were “held accountable in any way.”
  • How many firms total Kogan sold information to, and what their names are. (This was a follow-up to Senator Baldwin’s identical question Tuesday, which Zuckerberg had also said he’d follow up on.)
  • More detail about how Facebook ensures that content reviewers aren’t biased against conservative or religious posts.
  • Whether Zuckerberg can commit to convening a meeting of CEOs in his field to develop a strategy to increase racial diversity in tech. (“I think that that's a good idea and we should follow up on it,” Zuckerberg said.)
  • Input on the BROWSER Act, a bill that would require opt-in consent for sharing sensitive information with both telecoms and websites.
  • What if any valid law enforcement requests Facebook has honored in Russia.
  • An update on Facebook’s rural broadband plans when available.
  • How many data points Facebook has on the average non-Facebook user.
  • How many Facebook “Like” buttons there are on non-Facebook web pages.
  • How many Facebook “Share” buttons there are on non-Facebook web pages.
  • How many chunks of Facebook pixel code there are on non-Facebook web pages.
  • Whether Zuckerberg’s team can get back to the committee within 72 hours.
Facebook is 3 things: bad interface, bad management, and biased policies. I want a social network that gives me control of what I see and share -- both to my friends and to advertisers. I realize they need to make a buck, and my information is their product, but the point is you can still give users the illusions of control. But Zuckerberg seems to have falling into the egocentric pit that many young billionaires do, they think because they timed things well, and worked hard, and got lucky that they're smarter than everyone else. This makes them arrogant, less mature, and slower to grow than the average human: Dunning-Kruger, inflated by being surrounded by yes-men.



📚 References

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