Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg endured Wednesday a second day of congressional criticism at a press conference Hearing of the Energy Committee. His appearance followed an intense session with the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees a day earlier.
Some members of the House committee wondered if Facebook was tracking offline users. Some blasted that they claimed to be repeated cases of censorship, alleging that legitimate conservative views were reported as hate speech.
Zuckerberg was also faced with a number of questions about whether Facebook had tracked the activity of non-Facebook users, or whether it had tracked members' activities after they logged off the site .
Rep. Ben Lujan, D-N.M., asked Zuckerberg about the privacy rights of people who were not Facebook users, but whose data were nevertheless collected by Facebook.
Zuckerberg denied knowing of "ghost profiles" of people who were not members of Facebook, but said Facebook was collecting data on non-members for security purposes, in part to avoid scraping.
Committee members repeatedly questioned Zuckerberg about several recent incidents that they found disturbing. In one case, they asked about Facebook blocking conservative Diamond and Silk vloggers as "dangerous." They also questioned Facebook's rejection of an advertisement from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, which represented the crucifixion of Jesus.
Dem. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Who chairs the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, asked Zuckerberg if Facebook subjectively manipulated algorithms to prioritize or censor speech.
Facebook does not think of what it does as a censorship speech, Zuckerberg replied, claiming that the company is working to protect the site from extreme behavior such as terrorism.
"Let me tell you something now," said Blackburn. "Diamond and silk are not terrorism."
Later, she tweeted about plans to tackle Facebook algorithms in future forums.
I asked Mark Zuckerberg if Facebook subjectively manipulated algorithms to push his own agenda, and censor the conservatives. We look forward to having another hearing on the algorithms soon to address this important issue. https://t.co/BMeEW0WlXf
– Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) April 11, 2018
Blackburn and other representatives asked Zuckerberg if he supported a regulation that would create new privacy rights for Facebook users, some pointing to the European General Regulation on Data Protection, which will come into force on next month, to protect users against exploitation.
While Zuckerberg said that Facebook was planning to expand its compliance with the GDPR globally, he seemed reluctant to make that commitment as an official guarantee.
The questions lawmakers have been asking Zuckerberg over the last few days indicate that many members of Congress have a limited understanding of the intricacies of data collection, the use of algorithms and business models Facebook and other social media.
It is unclear whether Congress will be able to deliver on promises to legislate privacy, said Nate Cardozo, senior counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"We are skeptical about Congress's ability to push for meaningful reforms," he told the E-Commerce Times, "but we look forward to revisiting any legislative language such as this." is proposed."
Cambridge Analytica Fallout
Meanwhile, while Zuckerberg was testifying in Congress, the Cambridge Analytica Board of Directors announced Wednesday that its interim managing director, Alexander Tayler, would step down and resume his former role as Data Manager.
The resumption of his former position would allow him to focus on various technical investigations and requests, the company said. He did not appoint a new interim CEO.
The Office of the British Information Commissioner executed a search warrant on Cambridge Analytica at the end of last month and seized a large number of documents.
The House of Commons Digital Committee investigating false news will hear testimony next week from Alexander Nix, the suspended General Manager of Cambridge Analytica.