Zuckerberg hearing in the US Senate

Facebook: Zuckerberg, put on the grill by the US Senate, apologizes but doesn't really change.

In the midst of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the young founder of Facebook was subjected for more than four hours to a barrage of questions from some 40 US senators. What came out of it? A mea culpa but a lot of blurry and evasive answers. We are far from concrete and precise commitments on the solutions that the social network could provide to guarantee its integrity and regain the trust of its two billion users. Would this be an impossible task? Has Facebook become too big to be mastered if not controlled?
Ihe had left his famous t-shirt and hooded shirt for the occasion to appear before the American Senate in a blue suit and tie-Facebook. He tried to look contrite, humble and serious. The circumstances of this marathon sworn hearing demanded it. Dozens of cameras and photographers broadcast around the world what was to be an event.

A certain amount of responsibility as a new philosophy

For more than four hours, sitting in a specially upholstered chair, the Facebook boss stood up to the avalanche of questions put to him. Striving to be polite, pedagogical and clear, Zuckerberg did not waver. Admittedly, at the end of the exercise, his face showed tiredness and contained tension to appear cooperative and erase all traces of his natural arrogance.
"Zuck" no longer presents himself as the passionate and sometimes aggressive geek of a technology platform that aggregates billions of users. No, Zuck now claims to want to change: he wants to be the boss of a company." responsible ». It's new and it may be the only new thing in this long hearing.
It is also a minimum in the face of criticism from all sides on the operation of this network, which makes a fortune by accumulating incalculable masses of personal data. Accountability is what is expected. at a minimum.
Also, from the outset, Zuckerberg made his mea culpa. He could hardly do otherwise. It was impossible for him to continue to claim that his network is only responsible for the technology and not for the content being broadcast. « We didn't have a broad enough view of our responsibility and that was a big mistake... "he says. Pale, he admits: " It is clear that we have not done enough to prevent our tools from being used to do harm. Whether it's spreading "fake news", allowing foreign interference in our elections, relaying hate speech, or controlling developers and their use of private data. "

Perseverare diabolicum

A confession with a minimum service appearance. But what can be done to prevent these mistakes from happening again? Answer in the form of an artistic blur: " It will take time to complete all the necessary changes. ». Zuckerberg may announce that he will be employing by the end of the year..." More than 20,000 people are involved in data security and content monitoring tasks. "The objective is to limit as much as possible the risks of control and regulation of its network. The threat is real: " If Facebook can't resolve its privacy issues, we will. ", said Florida Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, a Democratic senator from Florida.
Faced with questions, Zuckerberg perseveres in his belief. According to him, the social network is " sure "despite all proven cases of manipulation and misappropriation of users' personal data. He concedes that the fight against manipulations, especially those related to politics and elections, is difficult. He mentions here " an arms race "against. people in Russia whose job it is to operate our systems... ». He swears to cooperate actively with special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who believes that the internet and in particular Facebook served as a platform for a vast propaganda operation from Russia during the 2016 US presidential election won by Donald Trump. He regrets this episode: " One of my biggest regrets is that we've been slow to identify "foreign interference via the network into the countryside. What will Facebook do to avoid such interference in the future? Mystery and evasive answers on the implementation of an artificial intelligence that will be able to analyze content.
When he's not being evasive, Zuckerberg says he doesn't know. He's done it many times, which has had a way of infuriating the senators. « During this hearing (...), you were questioned on many crucial questions, to which you have no answers. "Senator Kamala Harris, among others, told him.

The tip of the iceberg

Sometimes even the Facebook boss seems confused. When a senator asks him if he would agree to make public the hotel where he is staying in Washington, he is surprised by the question but drops a "no". The senator continues: « would you be willing to make public the identities of the people you've met in the last few days? ». Zuck perceives the trap the chosen one wants to take him into; he drops a "no" in a tight smile. Making this private information public is what the network does with its users. In his defense, Zuckerberg claims that user data is never sold to third parties. This is to be believed, since it is Facebook's business. But the Cambridge Analytica case has sufficiently demonstrated that this data is accessible to others than Facebook. This case is probably just the tip of a much larger iceberg.
In its defense, Zuckerberg repeats that users are warned of the use of their data in the terms of use that they must sign. But on this point, Senator John Kennedy gets angry: who can read these contracts? How many are able to read and understand them? The parliamentarian says: " Your contract sucks. You should go home immediately and rewrite it so everyone understands it. ». Embarrassed smile of student Zuck who pulls himself together by calling for - piously - a regulation. Rules, not too strict, but enough." to explain in a simple and practical way what we have the right to do with our users' data ». Rules that are not too restrictive like the European GDR but sufficient to clear customs.
Those who were expecting to discover revelations at this hearing will be disappointed. Anything Zuckerberg brings as answers to senators' questions is either expected or obscure. The only thing that is clear is that Facebook seems to have become too big a system, a kind of monstrosity. uncontrollable. Breaches in the system are becoming more and more apparent and the only response is to mobilise developers or artificial intelligence to plug the holes in the hull of a ship that seems to be taking on water from all sides. But a ship riddled with holes, if it is big enough, does not sink. That is probably the case with Facebook.
Zuckerberg's not done with American elected officials. He's being heard on Wednesday, April 11, by a committee of the House of Representatives. In the meantime, while Zuckerberg's performance did not shed any light, it was apparently enough for the financial community: Facebook's share price jumped by 4.5 % during the Senate hearing.

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