Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg submitted to five grueling hours of questioning at the hands of more than 40 senators in a joint hearing of two separate committees on Tuesday, and was further grilled for several hours on Wednesday by more than 50 representatives in a similar joint committee hearing.
Zuckerberg caught plenty of flak from Republicans over allegations and concerns that the social media platform had been censoring and suppressing the content of conservative users, individuals and groups alike.
He also drew fire from Democrats who expressed privacy concerns over revelations Facebook had shared user data and allowed that data to be exploited by outside third parties.
Former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee tweeted of the hearings, “After Senate hearings, will a lot of Americans ‘unfriend’ Facebook? Zuckerberg having about as much fun as a catfish on a trotline. (If you need a translation, you won’t understand a lot of other important things either.)”
After Senate hearings, will a lot of Americans "unfriend" Facebook? Zuckerberg having about as much fun as a catfish on a trotline. (If you need a translation, you won't understand a lot of other important things either.)
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) April 10, 2018
For those not from the south or familiar with the practice of catching catfish with a trotline, it involves a line stretched across the water with several baited hooks hanging down under the water that is left unattended for several hours — typically overnight — only to be retrieved later with a number of catfish hooked in place. Not much fun for the hooked fish that’s left waiting to discover its ultimate fate.
Such was the plight of Zuckerberg on Tuesday, as numerous senators baited and hooked the Facebook founder with questions that left him exposed and could prove consequential in the long run.
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) April 10, 2018
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas hit Zuckerberg hard over political bias and the censorship and suppression of conservative users — Zuckerberg admitted he understood the concern and agreed bias could be an issue — and then forced him to admit that he was unaware of any similar censorship or suppression of left-leaning users and organizations.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska also took on Zuckerberg over political bias with an eye toward how the social media defined “hate speech” — whether content would be censored if it “hurt somebody’s feelings” — and used the passionate topic of abortion as an example of the dangers of defining what sort of “free speech” constituted “hate speech.”
.@BenSasse challenges Zuckerberg to define hate speech.
"Can you imagine a world where you might decide that pro-lifers are prohibited from speaking" on Facebook?
"It might be unsettling to people who've had an abortion to have an open debate on that, wouldn't it?" pic.twitter.com/mGHfnq4BWH
— IJR (@TheIJR) April 10, 2018
Even Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois landed a zinger on Zuckerberg when he asked point-blank which hotel the Facebook founder had stayed in the night before and who he had messaged with in recent days, proving the point that most people prefer to keep their private information private.
Dick Durbin gives Mark Zuckerberg the business pic.twitter.com/mWZMGesAui
— Axios (@axios) April 10, 2018
But perhaps the best line of the hearings came from Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, who on the topic of Facebook’s intricate and lengthy “end user licensing agreement,” stated bluntly, “Your user agreement sucks.”
— ABC News (@ABC) April 11, 2018
According to Business Insider, Zuckerberg failed or was incapable of adequately answering at least 20 different questions and requests, and was asked specifically to provide follow-up information in regard to at least six different recommendations from the senators.
It will be interesting to see how Zuckerberg responds to all of that in the coming days and weeks, once he is released from the Congressional trotline upon which he has been hanging for two days.
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