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Prague-based media development worker from Poland with a journalistic background. Previously worked on digital issues in Brussels. Piqs about digital issues, digital rights, data protection, new trends in journalism and anything else that grabs my attention.
This week, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg testified in the US Congress, answering almost 600 questions from 100 lawmakers in the House and Senate. Ten hours of testimony focused on Facebook’s data collection and privacy policies, and hinged largely on the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
A five-minute clock limit in the Senate and four in the House made it hard to squeeze information out of stoic, almost robotic Zuckerberg. Top it up with a frequent repetition of questions that had already been asked, a clear lack of understanding of technology issues by poorly informed senators, and soapboxing, and it’s no wonder that the Facebook CEO had mostly glided through the Congress's questioning.
Yet, what stood out was Zuckerberg’s evasiveness. Time and time again, the Facebook founder dodged questions by claiming he didn’t know the answers, repeatedly promising numerous lawmakers to "follow up" later on in writing.
Multiple outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Verge, PolitiFact and the Guardian (the article recommended here for its clarity and brevity), took up to fact-check Zuckerberg’s testimony, reaching a similar conclusion — it's not that the responses were outright lies, but in some cases they omitted some key details that could cast negative light on Facebook.
“When it came to the nuts and bolts of Facebook’s business model, the 33-year-old deflected scrutiny through a combination of declared ignorance, amnesia, and world-class public relations spin,” the Guardian wrote.
This definitely adds a new concern about the company's lack of transparency. As another journalist at the Intercept put it, "if Zuckerberg can get away with evasion, omission, and deception before members of Congress, what chances for accountability do Facebook’s 2 billion users around the world possibly have?"