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Live updates from Day 2 of Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress

The Facebook CEO is speaking during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing.

We’re back for Day 2 of Mark Zuckerberg-fest here in Washington, D.C. The Facebook CEO is set to testify again today about the company’s data and privacy policies, this time before the House Commerce Committee beginning at 10 am ET / 7 am PT — if you want to watch live you can do so here or in the YouTube video above.

Yesterday, Zuckerberg testified for more than five hours in a joint hearing of two Senate committees, and took questions from more than 40 senators. We were in the room and covered the hearing here.

Zuckerberg did well yesterday. He was smart, respectful, and benefitted from the fact that a lot of the lawmakers used their time to pontificate or ask questions that weren’t very technical. It was a reminder that this stuff is complicated, and that Facebook needs to be better at explaining what it does and why to a more general audience. Not just tech journalists.

We’ll have live updates from Zuckerberg’s testimony starting soon.

9:55 am ET: Day 2! We’re back inside the hearing room today, this time in the Rayburn House Office Building across the street from the Capitol. It feels much smaller than yesterday, but the chaos outside the room is the same: Dozens of TV cameras, hundreds of people waiting to get into public seating, and lots of cops trying to keep order. I saw Facebook’s comms team, including VP of Public Policy and Global Communications Elliot Schrage, waiting in line with the public to get in. (They made it!)

9:56 am ET: Zuckerberg just came in and sat down. A million click-click-clicks from the photographers, again like yesterday. Here is my view. You can see how cramped it is compared to yesterday.

Mark Zuckerberg sits before the House Commerce Committee on April 11, 2018.
Kurt Wagner

10:00 am ET: We started right on time today. Chairman of the committee, Rep. Greg Walden, is issuing his opening statement. It’s what you would expect — he’s worried about the amount of data Facebook collects, and how it is used, and how Facebook conveys that information to its users.

This room is packed. I am counting 55 members of the House seated. This could be another marathon.

10:11 am ET: Zuckerberg is now reading his opening statement. It is the same statement he read yesterday to the Senate. You can read it here.

10:16 am ET: The Q&A is starting with Walden. He asked if Facebook is a media company, and Zuckerberg said that Facebook is a technology company. (My colleague Peter Kafka believes Facebook is a media company, and you should read this great story about it if you have some time.)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies At House Hearing
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) (L) greets Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg before he testifies to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

10:18 am ET: Zuckerberg just said that people come to one of Facebook’s products 100 billion times per day. That is ... a lot. Zuckerberg is once again telling Walden that Facebook does not sell user data, which the company has now clarified many many times. For a general idea of how Facebook uses your data for advertising, you should read the explainer Recode just published this morning.

10:22 am ET: Rep. Frank Pallone is asking Zuckerberg to answer yes or no questions. The only real interesting one is whether Zuckerberg would commit to changing Facebook’s user default settings to minimize data collection “to the greatest extent possible.”

Zuckerberg said it is a “complex issue that deserves more than a one-word answer.”

“That’s disappointing to me,” Pallone replied.

The background here is that yesterday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal proposed a new bill that would require companies to have users opt in to all data collection. Default or most companies now is opt out, meaning the companies collect it until they are told not to. Obviously, this means companies usually get a lot more data than they would otherwise.

10:31 am ET: Zuckerberg is now trying to explain to Rep. Bobby Rush why Facebook doesn’t surveil its users. He says that Facebook gives users controls over their data and privacy settings. You can take down your data, for example. “I know of no surveillance organization that gives people the option to delete the data that they have or even know what they’re collecting,” Zuckerberg said.

10:35 am ET: An emerging theme here is that everyone seems to be realizing Facebook doesn’t really have much competition in the social media space. Zuckerberg keeps saying that Americans use an average of eight different apps to “communicate and stay connected to people” — this is his argument for why Facebook is not a monopoly. (He said that yesterday, too.) But let’s be honest. What app really competes with Facebook? Maybe SMS and iMessage on the messaging front. But of those eight apps Zuckerberg keeps mentioning, I wonder how many Facebook owns. Does that include Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp?

10:41 am ET: Rep. Anna Eshoo just asked Zuckerberg if he would change Facebook’s business model “in the interest of protecting individual privacy.” He replied, “I’m not sure what that means.” This idea that Facebook should consider some kind of business beyond advertising is interesting. It does not sound from what Zuckerberg said today or yesterday that Facebook is seriously considering anything else, like an ad-free subscription model, for example. But it’s an intriguing idea. Zuckerberg and Facebook have always said that Facebook can and should be free because that’s the best way to connect everyone in the world.

10:48 am ET: “It’s something that we’re looking into.” That was Zuckerberg’s response to whether or not Facebook is planning to sue Cambridge Analytica.

10:50 am ET: We are only about 45 minutes into this thing, but it seems clear Zuckerberg is in for a much tougher grilling than he got yesterday from members of the Senate. The questions this morning have been more pointed, and there is clear frustration from many of the House members here. Many have asked pointed yes/no questions that Zuckerberg keeps trying to explain in more detail.

10:55 am ET: Add this to the list of themes from the week: Facebook offers a lot more privacy and data controls than anyone seems to realize. So many questions so far have been answered by Zuckerberg with some version of “We already do that.” What’s clear is that lots of people just don’t know what Facebook offers. Facebook obviously needs to do a better job conveying to people what it’s collecting, and how they can protect themselves.

11:01 am ET: Rep. Marsha Blackburn just likened Facebook’s “community” to “The Truman Show,” where your life is shared with people that you don’t even know are watching. Spooky!

11:05 am ET: Blackburn also asked Zuckerberg about censorship on Facebook, but we didn’t get to hear much of an exchange as she ran out of time. Zuckerberg replied that he doesn’t see what Facebook does as censorship, but that there are some types of content, like terrorist content, that everyone likely agrees should be taken down. I can’t help but wonder if that censorship question came about because of this incident from last fall, where a Blackburn campaign ad about “the sale of baby body parts” was temporarily blocked on Twitter.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies At House Hearing Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

11:15 am ET: Rep. Mike Doyle is a little shocked that Facebook didn’t learn about the Cambridge Analytica data trove until it was approached by the press in 2015. “Do you routinely learn about these violations through the press?” he asked. “Congressman, sometimes we do.” Journalism is important, folks!

Doyle also commented that Facebook was more loyal to its developer partners than it was to user privacy. I think that is a fair argument, especially if you go back to when this Cambridge Analytica data transfer took place in 2013.

11:25 am ET: Rep. Jan Schakowsky asked Zuckerberg if Aleksandr Kogan, the professor who collected user data and sold it to Cambridge Analytica, sold that data to other firms. “I don’t believe it was a large number, but as we complete the audits we will know more.”

“What’s a large number?” she asked.

“A handful,” he replied.

This is interesting. So far, Cambridge Analytica has been the only real target of all the press and attention, but it sounds like there are a number of other companies that received the same Facebook user data as Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has mentioned just one other company that I am aware of, Eunoia Technologies, where the whistleblower Christopher Wylie later worked. But the fact Zuckerberg was so cagey makes me think there is a lot more there to uncover.

11:42 am ET: I will reiterate something I already said here, but these questions have been much firmer and tougher than the questions Zuckerberg got yesterday. My hunch is that when they mention that it’s break time, he won’t volunteer to stick around and answer more questions like he did yesterday.

11:46 am ET: And there you go. We are now having a five-minute recess, and Zuckerberg did not offer to stick around for more questions today.

11:58 am ET: Zuckerberg is back, followed by Facebook’s VP of Public Policy Joel Kaplan and Facebook’s General Counsel Colin Stretch. He sat down just in time for Rep. Leonard Lance to tell him that he is “deeply offended” with how Facebook censors content. Facebook, of course, has said it does not censor content, but removes stuff that is a threat to people’s safety, etc. And we’re off!

12:09 pm ET: Zuckerberg is defending Facebook’s advertising business model again — the main argument is that it allows people to access the service for free. Rep. Brett Guthrie is asking why Facebook can’t just run advertising without targeting those ads to users. Zuckerberg’s response is that ads that aren’t targeted aren’t very great. They are expensive for advertisers, who spend money reaching people they might not want to reach, and bad for users, who get ads they don’t care about.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies At House Hearing Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

12:18 pm ET: Rep. Pete Olson just asked Zuckerberg about the time Facebook experimented on users by seeing how the content they saw in News Feed impacted their mood. If you don’t remember what this is, you should read this. I think a lot of people have forgotten that happened (I know I did), but it’s interesting to resurface that because it shows how Facebook can and will pull the strings in the background without people knowing.

Unfortunately, the question didn’t lead to a very good back-and-forth — Zuckerberg just said that Facebook is always testing to see what impact the service has on its users — so I’m not sure if people will remember the exchange. But I like the pull.

12:28 pm ET: Question from out of left field from Rep. David McKinley: Does Facebook allow online pharmacies to sell illegal drugs online without a prescription?

Zuckerberg: “Of course not.”

The question seems to be coming because McKinley feels Facebook does a poor job of reviewing content and taking stuff down. “When are you going to stop and take down these posts?” he asked, apparently referring to posts about online pharmacies promoting illegal drugs. “You know that they’re up there!”

Zuckerberg says that Facebook needs to build more AI tools to keep up with the massive amount of posts that people share every. This has always been one of Facebook’s biggest challenges: Policing the stuff on its site in real time. At the moment, it’s impossible to do this at Facebook’s scale.

12:37 pm ET: Rep. Adam Kinzinger just held up his phone to show Zuckerberg that someone was using a fake account with his photo and a similar name. “It looks a lot like me, but it says he’s from London and lives in LA,” Kinzinger said. He says this happens often. “It’s using my picture, but extorting people for money,” he added.

Zuckerberg admitted that this is a problem for the company. “Fake accounts overall are a big issue because that’s how a lot of the other issues that we see around fake news and foreign election interference are happening as well.” What’s Facebook’s solution? “More AI tools,” Zuckerberg said. So many of Facebook’s problems, from policing the site for bad content to preventing fake accounts, rely on advanced software programs the company is building, but hasn’t mastered. If you don’t work in technology, that is probably an unsatisfying answer.

12:45 pm ET: Ha! Rep. Morgan Griffith just said that when he sees constituents post to Facebook that “Morgan Griffith is a bum” he considers that to be “misinformation.” Morgan, we’ve all been there, my friend.

12:50 pm ET: Zuckerberg’s reply, FWIW: There are a few categories of fake news that we fight.

1. Spammers: There is no ideological goal with this group. We make it so they can’t run our ads. A lot of this is done automatically these days.

2. State actors: These are folks like the IRA in Russia. Those people are setting up fake accounts. Facebook needs to set up AI systems to help identify these. (There’s another mention of AI ...)

Facebook also hires third-party fact-checkers to manually review fake news and flag it for users when they see it.

12:58 pm ET: I believe that Rep. Yvette Clarke just called Zuckerberg “Mr. Zuckerman.” Unrelated, we are now approaching the end of hour three of the testimony...

1:03 pm ET: Clarke did ask a very nuanced set of questions after that. First she asked if the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, violated Facebook’s policies by collecting user information through his app and selling it to Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg said yes.

Then she asked if the Obama campaign violated those same policies in 2012 when it collected user data in a similar way through its own app, which a lot of people have pointed to in the wake of this Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“No, Congresswoman, it did not,” Zuckerberg answered.

The nuance here is that the way the data was collected is not actually the problem. The way Obama and Kogan collected user data was all in line with Facebook’s policies at the time. The difference is that Kogan then sold that data, whereas the Obama campaign simply used it without selling it. Selling the data, not collecting it, is what violated the company’s policies.

Facebook used to be okay with developers collecting data from people without their consent. It wasn’t okay with people then selling that data to someone else.

1:17 pm ET: Missed this in the moment but best question of the day goes to Rep. Billy Long, who asked, “What was Facemash and is it still up and running?”

This, of course, was the hot-or-not style website Zuckerberg launched in college before Facebook. It was shut down 15 years ago.

1:25 pm ET: The crowd here has thinned considerably. Only three of the 20 members of Congress who were in the second row to start this hearing are still here.

Kurt Wagner

1:29 pm ET: We are still getting very basic questions about how Facebook’s advertising business works. Rep. Joseph Kennedy, for example, was just challenging Zuckerberg about how it grants access to user data to advertisers. Zuckerberg explained that advertisers do not get to access user info, but rather can target groups of users based on that info.

Also, Rep. Larry Bucshon asked Zuckerberg about a very popular conspiracy theory, that Facebook listens to people through their microphone.

As I wrote in a basic explainer of Facebook’s targeted advertising business this morning, the company says no. “We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio,” the company wrote on its blog.

1:38 pm ET: We are onto our second five-minute break and are now in the home stretch. This place has really cleared out since the testimony started.

1:54 pm ET: This break is taking a while. Almost 20 minutes and still no Zuckerberg.

1:56 pm ET: Quick Facebook stock update while we wait. Shares are up slightly on the day. Similar to yesterday, no one seems particularly concerned with the answers Zuckerberg is giving here.


1:57 pm ET: Zuckerberg just walked back in and we are back at it.

1:59 pm ET: Rep. Susan Brooks just asked what Facebook’s role is in preventing terrorism. Zuckerberg said the company has a counterterrorism team of 200 people who work on this kind of stuff. They also use AI to look for content related to terrorism and try to take it down as quickly as possible. This story I wrote about some of Facebook’s counterterrorism efforts in 2015 is old now, but offers a bit of a glimpse into what the company has done previously to try and prevent it.

2:15 pm ET: Zuckerberg says he’s cool with the GDPR privacy regulations that the EU will implement next month. “I think the GDPR in general is going to be a very positive step for the internet.” When asked what he thought the GDPR got wrong, he said he “needs to think about that.”

2:19 pm ET: Zuckerberg was just asked bluntly: What is hate speech?

“That’s a very important question and one that we struggle with continuously,” he replied. Zuckerberg added that Facebook gets criticized by people from both sides of the political spectrum for their decisions around content moderation.

As I’ve said before, but moderating content continues to be one of the toughest things Facebook tries to do, and it’s why Zuckerberg recently said he is “fundamentally uncomfortable” making content decisions for users around the world from his office in California.

2:20 pm ET: Rep. Chris Collins just said that he thinks it’s good that we’ve cleared up the fact that Facebook does not sell data. Facebook must be PRAYING that people know and believe that after more than 9 total hours of questions with Zuckerberg. It’s been brought up a LOT.

2:33 pm ET: This is very close to being over and the general mood seems to have changed a lot since we started. A few hours ago, this room was packed to the brim and lawmakers seemed aggressive and angry with Zuckerberg, often cutting him off mid-sentence. The mood has lightened significantly in my opinion, and the conversation has gotten more cordial. (Though Rep. Debbie Dingell is ripping into Zuckerberg as I type this, of course. She wants to know how many Like buttons there are around the web. Zuckerberg says probably more than 100 million but doesn’t know for sure.)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies At Joint Senate Commerce/Judiciary Hearing Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

2:50 pm ET: Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina literally just held up the U.S. Constitution and recited the first amendment to Zuckerberg...

We are onto our FINAL set of questions from Rep. Kevin Cramer.

2:53 pm ET: Cramer just said that Facebook needs to do a better job of proactively hunting for bad content on Facebook, specifically that the company needs to take down “illegal drug sites” on the service. (Not entirely sure what he is talking about if I’m being honest.)

“Please be better than this,” he said, before later adding, “I don’t expect it to be perfect but I do expect it to be a higher priority.”

Zuckerberg reassured him that Facebook is indeed actively trying to remove bad content from Facebook. But Facebook has historically relied on users to flag stuff before taking it down, which is why some bad content can end up staying on the site for a lot longer than it should. Again, Facebook is banking on new AI algorithms to fix most of these problems.

2:57 pm ET: Walden is wrapping this up. He told Zuckerberg he would welcome his suggestion as to other CEOs that they should talk to about this kind of stuff. It would have been AMAZING if Zuckerberg had name dropped Google’s Sundar Pichai or Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, but he did not take that bait.

3:00 pm ET: Committee adjourned! Zuckerberg shook a few hands before he was ushered right out the main door and toward the building’s exit. I could hear people yelling his name from the hallway as he walked off.

3:01 pm ET: And exactly five hours after we started, we are done here with the House Commerce Committee hearing. That’s 10 total hours of testimony over two days that Zuckerberg just sat through. Keep checking Recode for our coverage of Facebook. Thanks for reading!

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