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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Faces Day 2 Of Lawmakers' Questions

Apr 11, 2018
Originally published on April 11, 2018 12:41 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, he survived day one on Capitol Hill, and today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg heads back for another day of testimony before Congress. He spent nearly five hours testifying in front of Senate committees yesterday.

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DICK DURBIN: Mr. Zuckerberg, would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: (Laughter) No.

(LAUGHTER)

DURBIN: If you've messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you've messaged?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, no, I would probably not choose to do that publicly, here.

DURBIN: I think that may be what this is all about.

GREENE: Democratic Senator Dick Durbin talking about privacy with Mark Zuckerberg, who faces another day of questioning before the House Commerce Committee today. Let's talk about this with NPR's Laura Sydell.

Hi, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hello.

GREENE: So I guess Durbin trying to send Zuckerberg a message there (laughter) about privacy.

SYDELL: (Laughter) Yes.

GREENE: So how did Zuckerberg do on day one?

SYDELL: Well, he was definitely a more polished version of himself - no hoodie, he had a tie and a suit, instead.

GREENE: I don't know if I've ever seen him in a suit and tie.

SYDELL: Didn't with the...

GREENE: Wow.

SYDELL: (Laughter) I know. He fit in with the Washington scene. He certainly wasn't the guy who sweated on stage eight years ago at this conference when he was asked about his views on privacy. But not all of the senators were happy with his testimony. Here is Senator Kennedy, Republican from Louisiana.

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JOHN KENNEDY: I don't want to vote to have to regulate Facebook, but, my God, I will. In fact, a lot of that depends on you. I'm a little disappointed in this hearing today. I just don't feel like that we're connecting.

GREENE: Ouch.

SYDELL: Yeah, not good to hear when you run a company that's all about connecting.

GREENE: Yeah.

SYDELL: I think lawmakers were concerned that the public doesn't really understand what it's signing up for when they open up a Facebook account. And I think we're going to hear more about that today, about trying to get to the bottom of what the public should expect when Zuckerberg heads back in for a second day of questioning over in the House.

GREENE: You know, we've been bringing lawmakers onto the program and asking, like, what is this about? Is it just about, you know, philosophically doing your job as lawmakers, accountability and bringing the CEO in front of you or is there actually information he's going to provide? You're going to learn something. Did we learn anything new?

SYDELL: You know, I would say some senators learned something new. I don't know overall if people who followed Facebook learn something new. Several times Zuckerberg explained to kind of the same question that the company doesn't sell the personal data of its users. It does tell advertisers if you want to reach a certain group of people - say women over 40 who live near Indianapolis - they will get ads in front of those people because they have the data to find them. But here's where the app system in Facebook is where things got out of control because developers can ask people to share data with them, and Cambridge Analytica purchased information from a Cambridge professor who made an app. And that was actually a violation of Facebook's rules. And we did hear a bit about that yesterday.

GREENE: Well - and Zuckerberg has apologized for that and said that he needs to do better. But did he commit to anything specific yesterday in terms of what he and the company will do in the future?

SYDELL: Well, he apologized for what happened. He actually said he was open to regulation. Many senators seem keen on the idea, but Zuckerberg himself left a lot of wiggle room. Here he is responding to Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

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ZUCKERBERG: My position is not that there should be no regulation. I think the Internet has increasingly embraced....

LINDSEY GRAHAM: You embrace regulation.

ZUCKERBERG: I think the real question as the Internet becomes more important in people's lives is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be or not.

GRAHAM: But you, as a company, welcome regulation.

ZUCKERBERG: I think if it's the right regulation, then yes.

GRAHAM: Do you think the Europeans have it right?

ZUCKERBERG: I think that they get things right.

SYDELL: They were referring to a law in Europe, which goes into effect in late May. And that law says Facebook can't share data unless people specifically opt in. And that is an idea we heard a lot about and came up many times at the hearing. And Zuckerberg said his company's already making changes without regulation. He's giving app developers less access to user data. And on other issues, such as the use of Facebook by Russian trolls to influence the U.S. election, he says they've now put in place policies that should make the process more transparent. When you buy an issue or political ad, you have to verify your identity.

GREENE: All right. Questions for Zuckerberg yesterday; more questions coming in the House today. NPR digital culture correspondent Laura Sydell. Thanks, Laura.

SYDELL: You are quite welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.