During the first of two lengthy days of testimony on Capitol Hill, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced a wide range of questions hinging on his company’s data protection policies.
Though he hedged a number of his answers and some questions from lawmakers were criticized as too rudimentary, the day nonetheless resulted in several significant revelations.
One such moment came during an exchange between Zuckerberg and Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Since much of the testimony dealt with Facebook’s practices in the period prior to the 2016 presidential election, the Vermont Democrat wanted to know whether the company had been questioned as part of a Department of Justice probe into Russia’s alleged interference in the same campaign.
“I assume Facebook has been served with subpoenas from the special counsel’s office, is that correct?” Leahy asked, referencing Robert Mueller’s investigation.
After some hesitation, Zuckerberg confirmed the senator’s assumption.
“Have you or anyone at Facebook been interviewed by the special counsel’s office?” Leahy asked.
“Yes,” Zuckerberg replied.
He immediately clarified that he had not been interviewed by Mueller’s team personally, going on to walk back an earlier confirmation.
“I believe so,” he said when asked if anyone else in the company had answered questions in that setting.
Zuckerberg then began to equivocate, initially citing concern that he could be saying too much.
“I want to be careful here because … our work with the special counsel is confidential,” he said. “And I want to make sure that in an open session I’m not revealing something that’s confidential.”
From there, he said he wanted to “clarify” his hesitant response to Leahy’s initial question.
“I’m actually not aware of a subpoena,” he said. “I believe there may be, but I know we are working with them.”
The embattled CEO faces another round of questions Wednesday, this time from members of the House of Representatives.
With many analysts and his own stock prices reacting positively to his appearance in front of senators on Tuesday, the company and investors are likely hoping for a similar performance on day two.
As CNet reported, some of Zuckerberg’s generally well-received performance can be attributed to the level of questioning he received from “tech-challenged senators who seemed clueless about how Facebook makes its money and how the internet works.”
In addition to other industry analysts and reporters covering the hearing, many on social media shared the takeaway that some senators were not sufficiently knowledgeable of the subject at hand.
“Mr. Zuckerberg, a magazine i recently opened came with a floppy disk offering me 30 free hours of something called America On-Line. Is that the same as Facebook?” pic.twitter.com/U7pqpUhEhQ
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) April 10, 2018
Even Zuckerberg himself was impressed by one senator’s line of questioning, though.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked a series of questions suggesting partisan bias in the methods through which Facebook approves or denies content, advertisers and even employees.
“That was pretty good,” Zuckerberg acknowledged after emerging from the Cruz portion of his testimony.
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