Unless you’ve gone off the grid for the past two days, you’ve been following the roast of Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg is centre stage in a curious case aka privacy scandal affecting more than 87-million of Facebook users. The multi-billionaire testified in front of the United States Congress (kinda like South Africa’s Parliament) Energy and Commerce Committee, taking the flak for Facebook’s negligence following the Cambridge Analytica shit-show that started in 2015.
The subject of the Oscar-nominated film The Social Network was roasted for two days, getting grilled by senators and representatives. Zuckerberg sweat through tough questions on what Facebook really knows about us and where that data goes.
How it all started:
Aleksandr Kogan, a researcher from Cambridge University, blew the whistle on just how much information the social media platform has access to by demonstrating how easy it is to use that information without our consent.
Kogan sold data he harvested through a personality app on Facebook users to the political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica. The firm has links to the Trump election campaign. It turns out every message you’ve ever sent on Facebook and all your personal details you’ve ever listed are up for grabs. Sometimes that price is in the form of ads or sometimes it gets in the hands of political propagandists.
Following common knowledge of the mountains of files Facebook has collected on each individual who signs up to use the platform, the United States government called Zuckerberg in for some answers.
Some of the questions in Zuckerberg’s testimony to the US Congress included:
Should Facebook be regulated?
WTF happened with Russia using FB during the 2016 elections?
What is Facebook since its growth from social media app to the most influential business in the entire world?
Keep scrolling for all the facts you need to know about Zuckerberg’s hearing.
Should FB be regulated?
This essentially asks if Facebook will be subject to legislation.
Americans are all about that free-market, competition, separation-of-state and business life. However, the sobering realities of Facebook’s uncontrolled monopoly on social media may mean that it’s the end of the road for its unregulated nature.
Absurd that we think the answer to the Great Facebook Monopoly is more government regulation. Facebook became great because of the free market. It filled a need, albeit with major gaps. We can count on the free market—not the government—to compete with Facebook & fill those gaps.
— Pardes Seleh (@PardesSeleh) April 11, 2018
These changes could impact us if Facebook remains ‘free’ or if users will have to pay for the content and receive an ad-free version. If the latter happens, third parties won’t be able to access your info to sell you things without you specifically consenting to it.
The CEO stated he couldn’t commit to agreeing Facebook should be regulated but did say it was ‘inevitable.’
When Representative Frank Pallone Jr pressed Zuckerberg for answers as to whether he’d agree or disagree to amend Facebook’s default settings that collect and use users’ data, Zuckerberg answered, ‘This is a complex issue that deserves more than a one-word answer,’ to which Mr Pallone replied, ‘That’s disappointing to me.’
Zuckerberg’s hot take on Facebook and privacy
Zuckerberg was dragged by Senator Dick Durbin on his own personal rights to privacy. Durbin asked Zuckerberg if he would name the hotel he was staying at in Capitol Hill publicly. Zuckerberg responded that he wouldn’t.
The Congressman replied that that was the whole point of the hearing – his belief that he has the right to privacy and the limitations of that right in regard to everyone else’s privacy.
‘I think that maybe what this is all about is your right to privacy. The limits of your right to privacy,’ said Durbin. ‘And how much you give away in modern America, in the name of connecting people around the world.’
— Ƒunhouse app (@BackAftaThis) April 10, 2018
While Zuckerberg remains neither here nor there about the regulation of Facebook, one thing he does agree with is a new European data protection law called General Data Protection Regulation that protects user information.
The catch is that according to European law-makers, plenty of Facebook’s policy directly violates the new law.
In response, Zuckerberg says that Facebook plans to enable a setting at the ‘top of everyone’s app’ where users can modify their own privacy and sharing choices by the question of informed consent (outrightly asking users to either opt-in or opt-out of Facebook using your info).
Zuckerberg’s only concern about the General Data Protection Regulation is that it may restrict innovation, like Facebook’s direction in face-recognition technology – giving China a massive advantage in the tech industry.
Is FB taking over the world?
According to comScore, Facebook owns three of the top 10 mobile apps used in the United States: Facebook, Facebook Messenger and Instagram. Google owns the remaining seven. Meaning, Facebook doesn’t actually have any competition from other social-networking sites considering it also owns WhatsApp, a situation that impacts on our choices to engage with Facebook or not if there are no other options to choose from.
The awkward Russian/2016 election scandal
The details of Russia’s influence in the US 2016 election that saw the Human Cheeto assume office are long and complicated. The long and short of it is that Facebook may have played a role in enabling Russian hackers to access its users’ data to sway the vote.
Representative Pallone thinks Zuckerberg is pretty naive to think the data collected from us on Facebook wouldn’t be used as propaganda.
So Zuck claims that #Facebook has "tools" to identify fake users, yet NUMEROUS fake pages were used by #Russia🇷🇺as part of their psy op to help flip the election to Trump, and Facebook did NOTHING about it‼️🤬#Zuckerberg
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) April 10, 2018
‘For all the good it brings, Facebook can be a weapon for those – like Russia and Cambridge Analytica – that seek to harm us and hack our democracy,’ said Pallone.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has been used as a political tool – the 2012 Obama campaign used a Facebook app to collect data from users.
Is FB biased?
Today I questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook’s past censorship of conservative groups. I asked if the same actions had ever been taken against liberal groups, but did not get an answer. pic.twitter.com/IEuad3uJk5
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) April 10, 2018
We all know Facebook has a tough time distinguishing what content stays and what content goes, particularly in relation to what constitutes hate speech.
Conservatives on the Committee questioned whether Facebook is a platform for all ideas, as Zuckerberg repeatedly states. Zuckerberg was accused of being biased towards conservative ideas and stripping freedom of expression for Leftist views.
Senator Ted Cruz gave the example of Facebook banning a pro-Trump page-run by pop-culture conservatives, Diamond and Silk.
WTF does Facebook even do?
When Facebook started, it was a platform for connecting and sharing ideas. Now, it’s at the forefront of information technology. The mandate has drastically changed. Is FB an ad agency? A content soapbox? Media giant?
How Facebook is defined will have consequences for how it’s regulated. Zuckerberg explains: ‘I consider us to be a technology company. The primary thing we do is have engineers that write code and build services for other people.’ Wait, what?! Facebook is a tech company? Well then, surely they have no obligation to protect users? Zuckerberg says that’s not the case.
In his testimony before Congress Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg reiterated that Facebook does not sell user data to advertisers. So what is the relationship between Facebook, advertisers and your data? @mattbraga explains: pic.twitter.com/TkXAfDLnE5
— CBC News: The National (@CBCTheNational) April 11, 2018
‘Every piece of content that you share on Facebook you own, and you have complete control over who sees it — and how you share it, and you can remove it at any time,’ Zuckerberg told a representative.
‘That’s why every day, about 100 billion times a day, people come to one of our services and either post a photo or send a message to someone, because they know that they have that control and that who they say it’s going to go to is going to be who sees the content.’
‘Do we have a responsibility for the content people share on Facebook? I think the answer to that question is yes,’ said Zuckerberg.
In a nutshell, Facebook collects a lot of data about you but it doesn’t necessarily sell that data.
— Mike Tokes (@MikeTokes) April 11, 2018
Recode’s Kurt Wagner says, ‘No, Facebook doesn’t sell your data. But it does sell access to you or, more specifically, access to your newsfeed. It then uses that data to show you specific ads it thinks you’re likely to enjoy or click on.’
Facebook also permits outside businesses to collect your data if you give them permission, which you have to in order to use most apps.
What this means for you…
The Roast of Mark Zuckerberg represents a turning point in information technology. It attempted to answer where exactly all the data on your likes, dislikes, political, religious and cultural views go.
As the digital world changes, so does our understanding around the impact of sharing ideas on the Internet.
There wasn’t much of a conclusion from the hearing, only that it’s up to the tech industry – and Zuckerberg as one of its biggest players – to help the government form legislation to ensure everybody wins.
Zuckerberg memes are the best memes of 2018 I will fight anyone who disagrees pic.twitter.com/kp7rXxF7Xl
— Paige Strauss (@thegreatpiago) April 11, 2018
In the meantime, the only option you have if you don’t want Facebook mining your info is to delete the app. The problem with that is that Facebook knows just how much influence it holds. It’s where we get our news and even how we mobilise around causes.
If you delete Facebook, you’re losing access to the information of millions of people which means that you could face a massive risk of being left behind.
If we’ve taken nothing away from this mess, at least we have the memes. You’re welcome.