Zuckerberg in Congress: excuses, promises but no revolution

Zuckerberg in Congress: excuses, promises but no revolution

For ten hours of hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg strongly defended Facebook and refused to question the economic model of the social network, thus sending the ball to parliamentarians who would like to impose a form of regulation of the sector, which he himself “inevitable”. Weary and dark tie, eyes reddened by fatigue, the CEO of Facebook was Wednesday on the grill of a parliamentary committee in the House of Representatives who assailed him with questions. He tried, as the day before in the Senate, to clear the ground after weeks of violent criticism. On the main menu: the fight against political manipulation and the protection of users’ personal data after the resounding Cambridge Analytica scandal, named after the British firm that unwittingly put their hands on the personal data of tens of millions of users . As he had done repeatedly, Mark Zuckerberg, cautious, made amends for past “mistakes”, and listened without hesitation to the remonstrances of parliamentarians demanding accountability and threatening to regulate the internet and social networks. He was not hostile in principle, while taking care to expand the issue beyond Facebook. “The importance of the internet is growing in the world and I think some form of regulation is inevitable,” he said, while saying that it should be “studied carefully” so as not to hinder small companies. He was also fatalistic, warning that “even 20,000 people” can not watch all the content on the network to filter them. For him, this is a way of saying that Facebook is doing its best but that the ball is now in the legislators’ court. Representative Frank Pallone, among others, called on Congress to “take immediate steps to protect our democracy”. “Warnings were everywhere, why did not anyone see them?” He asked. – “Frankenstein and Peter Pan” – “These auditions are an important step for the future of social networks, and it’s a first step towards writing an indispensable regulation,” says Jennifer Grygiel, subject specialist at the American University of Syracuse. But for Consumer Watchdog, the exercise was hardly motivated by a “public relations” problem. During both auditions, Mark Zuckerberg tirelessly explained how the social network works and said Facebook “does not sell data” to advertisers. He also defended tooth and nail the economic model of its social network, which he deems “safe” and which is not a “monopoly” despite its more than two billion users. Sometimes to the point of refusing to answer questions directly, as it has been criticized by several elected officials. Asked if he was ready to change Facebook’s business model, which is currently free because it is funded by advertising, “in the interest of privacy protection,” he replied, “I’m not sure what that means. ” He also left unanswered questions, including why he had not alerted Cambridge Analytica since 2015. “We should have done it, it was a mistake,” he said. In fact, the exchange between parliamentarians and the young leader has sometimes turned to the dialogue of the deaf, so many elected officials, especially in the Senate Tuesday, seemed poorly in control of the technological and economic issues of the debate. “No one will be able to effectively regulate Facebook until lawmakers know just how it works,” said Danna Young, a communications professor at the University of Delaware. As for Mr. Zuckerberg, “he is suffering from both the Frankenstein and Peter Pan syndromes, he is overwhelmed by his creation and at the same time proves a naivety, true or false that questions,” summarizes Olivier Ertzscheid, researcher in Information Sciences at the French University of Nantes. Zuckerberg has also taken care to spare the European Commission by calling “the positive steps” the General Regulation on Data Protection (GDPR), which comes into effect on May 25. This earned him the ironic thanks of Vera Jourova, EU Commissioner for Justice and Consumer Protection: “I was looking for ways to campaign for our data protection regulation. On the other hand, the performance of Mr. Zuckerberg seemed to satisfy the investors: the action Facebook has resumed colors Tuesday and Wednesday on the stock market after having tumbled a lot since mid-March.

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