Mark Zuckerberg finally walked into Congress today in a suit and Facebook-blue tie. He sat alone in a chair, behind a brown wooden desk, backed by a short-row of Facebook lawyers, and facing a U of nearly half the Senate, a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees.
And as the first day of the hearings came to a close, not one Senator had landed a good punch on the CEO of Facebook. It felt as if most of the chamber was asking, in one way or another, “What even is Facebook?”
Zuckerberg’s performance was not perfect. His stilted delivery played well in the theatrical proceedings, but he professed ignorance about the basic functioning of his own platform, a cornerstone piece of Internet legislation called the Communications Decency Act, and whether Facebook tracked browsing even when users were logged out (they can).
But it was the Senators who truly disappointed. Some wandered off topic, explained how Facebook worked to Zuckerberg, or didn’t seem to understand the questions they were asking. Others veered into boring partisan terrain.
There were some interesting lines of questioning. Senator Lindsey Graham raised the company’s dominant market position, gesturing towards a possible antitrust argument against the company. “It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me,” Zuckerberg responded. Senator Richard Blumenthal attempted to pin down Zuckerberg about what his company should have known about Cambridge Analytica’s data collection. Senator Markey pushed the need for greater children’s privacy protections. Zuckerberg demurred on the need for a new law.