News & Politics

Nervous Mark Zuckerberg, Under Heavy Security, Arrives on Capitol Hill

Picture: Zuckerberg and his bodyguard of B-Class voting shares. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A nervous-looking Mark Zuckerberg, under heavy security, arrived on Capitol Hill Monday ahead of his planned testimony at a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on Tuesday, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

The Facebook CEO met with lawmakers, including Democratic Senators Bill Nelson and Dianne Feinstein, on Monday to discuss the company’s recent security breaches and to explain how the company plans to protect users going forward. In his written testimony, released ahead of his appearances before Congress, Zuckerberg took full responsibility for Facebook’s failures and vowed to do better in the future.

“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy,” Zuckerberg said in the prepared remarks. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

In his remarks, Zuckerberg tallied up the known damages thus far—and the numbers are astounding:

  1. In 2013, a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan created a personality quiz app. It was installed by around 300,000 people who agreed to share some of their Facebook information as well as some information from their friends whose privacy settings allowed it. Given the way our platform worked at the time this meant Kogan was able to access some information about tens of millions of their friends.
  2. Our best estimate is that approximately 126 million people may have been served content from a Facebook Page associated with the [Russia-based] IRA [Internet Research Agency] at some point during that period. On Instagram, where our data on reach is not as complete, we found about 120,000 pieces of content, and estimate that an additional 20 million people were likely served it.
  3. Over the same period, the IRA also spent approximately $100,000 on more than 3,000 ads on Facebook and Instagram, which were seen by an estimated 11 million people.

Echoing what COO Sheryl Sandberg told “Today” last week, Zuckerberg said there may be more breaches discovered in the weeks and months to come as the company continues its investigation. “We’re in the process of investigating every app that had access to a large amount of information before we locked down our platform in 2014,” he wrote. “If we detect suspicious activity, we’ll do a full forensic audit. And if we find that someone is improperly using data, we’ll ban them and tell everyone affected.”

Zuckerberg concluded his remarks by saying his top priority has always been “our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together. He vowed that advertisers and developers will never take priority over that mission as long as he is running Facebook.

“I started Facebook when I was in college, he wrote. “We’ve come a long way since then. We now serve more than 2 billion people around the world, and every day, people use our services to stay connected with the people that matter to them most. I believe deeply in what we’re doing. And when we address these challenges, I know we’ll look back and view helping people connect and giving more people a voice as a positive force in the world.”

“I realize the issues we’re talking about today aren’t just issues for Facebook and our community — they’re challenges for all of us as Americans. Thank you for having me here today, and I’m ready to take your questions.”