Watch: Panic on Zuck's Face When Sen. Asks About Facebook Helping Obama


Facebook is embroiled in scandal, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become the face of a tech giant struggling to explain itself.

The billionaire was forced to do exactly that during two days of testimony in front of Congress, and one of the main topics surprised nobody: data security.

Not long ago, it was revealed that information broker Cambridge Analytica had “mined” the personal details of some 87 million people, and some of this information was used in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The media has tried to tie the scandal to Donald Trump. Recent reporting has pointed out, correctly, that Trump’s campaign team was aided by Cambridge Analytica data in its efforts to target voters.

However, what has been suspiciously missing in the uproar is the fact that Barack Obama’s campaign did almost the exact same thing in 2012 … and even openly bragged about its “accomplishment.”

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That inconvenient reality was brought up to Zuckerberg by Republican Senator Thom Tillis — and one look at the tech billionaire’s face shows just how uncomfortable he was hearing about it.

“I think that timeline needs to be updated,” said the North Carolina senator, who has a business and technology background.

“I’ve read a series of three articles that were published in the MIT technology review back in 2012,” he continued. “And it talks about how proud the Obama campaign was of exploiting data on Facebook.”

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The senator used the Obama team’s own words to illustrate that the problem had existed long before 2016.

“I think you should probably be equally mad when a former campaign director of the Obama campaign proudly tweeted: ‘Facebook was surprised. We were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing,'” he said.

That tweet was from Obama’s former media director, Carol Davidsen. In another tweet, she openly suggested that Facebook gave special privileges to the Democrat candidate because the company agreed with him politically.

“They (Facebook) came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side,” Davidsen wrote.

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Senator Tillis firmly suggested that Zuckerberg not ignore this fact. “When you go back and do your research on Cambridge Analytica, I would personally appreciate it if you would start back from the first high-profile national campaign that exploited Facebook data.”

As Tillis went into detail about how a 2012 Obama app had mined users’ Facebook data to help the Democrats, Mark Zuckerberg seemed visibly uncomfortable on camera. On a split-screen broadcast by C-SPAN, he could be seen glancing around and making a face that looked particularly nervous.

“I also believe that that person who may have looked the other way when the whole social graph was extracted for the Obama campaign, if they are still working for you, they probably should not,” Tillis scolded.

“At least there should be a business code of conduct that says that you do not play favorites. You are trying to create a fair place for people to share ideas,” he added.

“Playing favorites” is exactly the core problem at companies like Facebook and Twitter. On platforms that are used by billions of people, a level playing field is expected. If the admission by Obama’s former social media guru is true, things haven’t been level for years — and judging by Zuckerberg’s face, he seems to know it.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.