Don't Be Sorry for Mark Zuckerberg. Be Worried for the Future of the Social Media.

Lawmakers are exploiting the Cambridge Analytica scandal to push new internet regulations.


Mark Zuckerberg
Erin Scott/Polaris/Newscom

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn't need our sympathy when he appears before Congress this week for his ritual humiliation at the hands of the Washington establishment. But the anti-Facebook proposals already being advanced should be cause for concern.

Zuckerberg's appearance—his first on Capitol Hill—was prompted by news reports that a third-party Facebook app masquerading as a personality quiz extracted data that was sold to Cambridge Analytica, which in turn provided consulting services to Republicans. Since then, a Delete Facebook campaign has mushroomed, coupled with calls for Zuckerberg's ouster, despite the inconvenient fact that he owns over half of his company's voting shares.

Complicating matters for Zuckerberg is that both major parties have joined together for a thoroughly bipartisan denunciation of his company's alleged misdeeds.

Republicans see Facebook, with thousands of employees steeped in the deep blue sentiments of the San Francisco bay area, as tilting to the left. They remember the Trending Topics flap from 2016, the post-election revelation that chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg was slated for a top job under President Hillary Clinton, and the procession of conservatives who have found their Facebook accounts abruptly yanked, including the reported suspension a few days ago of the Trump-supporting duo Diamond and Silk. Then there were the employees who wanted Facebook to do its part to "help prevent President Trump in 2017."

Meanwhile, Democrats' instinctive predisposition for new regulations when a company is said to be misbehaving has escalated to a near obsession. Beyond the usual carefully manicured outrage about alleged privacy violations, they seem to view Facebook as a vehicle for Russian election ads and various still-to-be-determined skullduggery, which may or may not have helped to elect some fellow named Donald J. Trump. (The shortcomings of the Clinton campaign, and the actual views of those deplorables in swing states, tend not to be dwelt on overmuch.)

For his part, Zuckerberg will apologize to Congress, according to his prepared testimony released Monday. It says that politicians "rightfully have some hard questions for me to answer," adding: "We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I'm sorry."

Members of Congress seem to view themselves more as prosecutors than interlocutors during the Senate and House of Representatives hearings that begin on Tuesday.

"It's really high noon for Facebook and the tech industry," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D–Conn.), who apparently views himself as a stouthearted town sheriff facing down an outlaw, told The Washington Post. To buttress the point, Blumenthal served up a second analogy: This is Facebook's "unsafe at any speed moment."

Sen. Ed Markey (D–Mass.) used the opportunity to scale new heights of rhetorical excess, saying, "I think that this privacy spill is politically the equivalent of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico…. It involves our very democracy."

Over the weekend, Sen. Ron Wyden (D–Ore.) casually threatened forcible corporate dismemberment. "There are going to be people who are going to say Facebook ought to be broken up." he observed. "There have been a number of proposals and ideas for doing it and I think unless [Zuckerberg] finds a way to honor the promise he made several years ago, he's gonna have a law on his hands." Wyden said he would support such a law.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) is worried about "manipulation by foreign governments and intelligence services…. And then you've got the fact that data can be used for political purposes, probably outside people's imaginations." When a reporter for the Post asked whether he would support a new law targeting Facebook, Graham replied, "the long-winded answer is: Yes."

Rep. Ro Khanna (D–Calif.), whose district includes a portion of Silicon Valley, last fall called for a a new law forcing social networks to disclose who bought what ad. Recently, he told NPR, his legislative aspirations have ballooned. "We need an Internet Bill of Rights," Khanna said. "It's time that tech leaders like Zuckerberg embrace that, including a right to know what your data is, a right to be able to transfer your data, a right to be able to delete your data. There are a number of commonsense provisions that we need enshrined into law."

This is a dramatic change from when Bill Gates showed up at a 1998 Senate hearing during the middle of the government's antitrust pursuit of Microsoft.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R–Utah) was no fan of Microsoft—rival Novell was from Hatch's home state of Utah. But Hatch went out of his way to clarify the purpose during the first moments of the hearing with Gates, saying, "I want to make clear at the outset that neither this hearing nor any aspect of this committee's inquiry into these matters are intended to serve as an arena for criticizing or attacking any single company."

Don't expect that kind of gracious introductory statement this week.

The long-term political risk is bigger than Facebook. Currently, thank God, there is no U.S. Department of Online Content Regulation, or a broader Federal Internet Regulatory Commission. Nor are there laws specific to social media that dictate what kind of posts and ads are acceptable; instead, that is left to companies to define through terms of use policies.

But now such an outcome is more likely. It could happen in the states as well. California's S.B. 1424, introduced in February, says that anyone "who operates a social media Internet Web site with physical presence in California shall develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Internet Web site." (What social media sites don't have physical presences in California?)

There is an irony here. Facebook, as I wrote last month, said it was pulling the plug on the feature exploited by Cambridge Analytica all the way back in 2014. The changes took effect in 2015. No Senate hearings, Federal Trade Commission probes, or dogged investigative reporting convinced Facebook to disable it. Instead, the company bowed to market pressure. So you can imagine why Zuckerberg must wonder why it took the finest minds in Washington, D.C., eight years to discover the existence of a feature that has been publicly documented since its inception and was discontinued three years ago.

Perhaps Facebook's plan to do more fact-checking of "fake news" on its site could also extend to claims made by our esteemed elected officials.

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  1. If the liberals want to throw Zuck under the bus, I’m not going to pump the brakes.

    1. Principals > Principles, I guess.

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      2. You reap what you sow, brother.

        Zuckerberg is a corporate whore who is in the pocket of a political party and uses his power to further said political party’s agenda. We have a name for that, see if you can guess it.

        “Principles” > Principles seems to be the way around here. Regardless, I was speaking mostly of the market, in that if liberals want to leave in troves and turn him into the bad guy, I’m going to jump straight on the leave facebook bandwagon, even if I don’t agree with their reasoning for it, I have my own.

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    2. I would help push.

  2. I’d jizz in my shorts if he pulled a d’Anconia and burned the entire thing to the ground.

    Pipe dream

    1. Phrasing…

    2. Yeah, instead he’s going to show up to Congress, hat in hand, and beg them to regulate his and other social media companies so that there will be barriers to entry (a “big, beautiful wall” so to speak) to keep startups from taking FB’s market share. Right of the cronyist playbook. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if deep down he’s glad this happened.

      1. I doubt that will happen in this administration. You think Pai, the man who killed net neutrality, would go for that?

        I think this is more about Democrats trying to force Zuckerberg to get even more in line. That they don’t realize this has already backfired and has the real possibility of destroying one of their greatest propaganda tools just shows how incredibly stupid the Democratic Party is.

        1. I think Cynical is on to something. force opinions you don’t like off of private server and then make it impossible for those opinions to find a new home

        2. “I think this is more about Democrats trying to force Zuckerberg to get even more in line. That they don’t realize this has already backfired and has the real possibility of destroying one of their greatest propaganda tools just shows how incredibly stupid the Democratic Party is.”

          Rigid ideological enforcement is a hallmark of authoritarian, state centered dogma. There was a time, when this was more a Right wing philosophy, but the Right has moved away from it at least to some degree. The Left has moved into the vacuum and wholly embraced the concept of a strong and rigid central authority.

          …euphemisms …

    3. I’d jizz in my shorts if he pulled a d’Anconia and burned the entire thing to the ground.

      Ask everyone at the hearing(? interview? public shaming?) out loud for their name, address, and phone number. When queried what he’s doing, he should tell them he’s signing them up for preferred-member discount cards and more information regarding low-interest credit cards. When somebody says he can’t ask for the information or submit it to credit card companies and merchants without the permission of the “owner’s” “permission”, he should pull out a phone book, open it to a random page, and hold it out for the person with the objection and ask if they see their information listed on the page. As they lean in to see if their information is there, he should slam the book in their face, hit them in the side of the head with it, drop it, and walk out.

  3. They should throw Summers under the bus for letting this asshole of an idea thief steal Facebook from the Winkelvoos brothers in the first place.

  4. I just want to get that class action lawsuit coming. If Zuck wants to send me a check for doing something I assumed he was doing all along anyway, we’re good to go.

  5. Can’t I just hate everyone involved?

    1. Seriously. If there was ever an “I hate everybody in this story” story, this is it.

  6. I don’t get it. I was informed that Wyden was super duper libertarian-y. He sounds like a statist ass

    1. On the narrow issue of mass surveillance, he’s right up there with Rand Paul. On everything else, not so much.

      1. I wouldn’t even go that far. He doesn’t much care about FISA courts if they are being employed against his political enemies.

        Wyden has always been more hype than reality. That’s why only certain libertarians were all about him

        1. He’s better than your average senator when it comes to mass surveillance. That I would agree with

    2. Wyden is as he sounds. He would regulate every dollar in your pocket if he could. Why would he need mass surveillance if he knows the location of every dollar you have and how you spend it?

  7. Members of Congress seem to view themselves more as prosecutors than interlocutors during the Senate and House of Representatives hearings

    You spelled “craven media whores” wrong.

  8. It’s just a fucking website. Everyone needs to calm the fuck down.

    1. Exactly. Idiots who give personal information to some website for the privilege of posting pics of their kids doesn’t move the needle for me.

    2. Yep, I agree.

  9. Don’t Be Sorry for Mark Zuckerberg. Be Worried for the Future of the Social Media

    I hope that the future of Social Media will be the same as the future of all commercial media: they will go bankrupt and disappear.

    1. We got along just fine without it, we can do it again.

  10. “No Senate hearings, Federal Trade Commission probes, or dogged investigative reporting convinced Facebook to disable it. Instead, the company bowed to market pressure.”

    Instead, the company decided that, while it was ok to have Democrats scraping data, if Republicans were going to be doing it, too, something had to be done.

  11. I just want Zuckerberg’s open to the public business to host my cake memes

  12. the whole thing is theater but that won’t stop them from making laws or even breaking up parts of facebook while still leaving them connected, typical we did something but accomplished nothing. and I’m one who thinks face book did nothing wrong. If people don’t want to be watched stay off the internet

  13. I hope and pray that facebook bans everyone in Congress and Mark Z simply stands up in the hearing, laughs and declares himself God of the Internet and walks out.

  14. I’m so tired of hearing this fucking bullshit of Russia and them making Trump win. Now theres Cambridge something or other that helped him. Facebook has not been a place for priivacy for a long time . Liberals were fine with this when Obomber was in. Conservatives never care except a few in the liberty caucus. Now that Hellery lost the libtards are mad. Well get over it and use your energy to find a real candidate for 2020, one that doesn’t pass out during the campaign.

  15. If people want to keep their data private they shouldn’t put it anywhere on the web. Zuckerberg and the Silicon Gang are just assholes with delusions of grandeur. They fit in well with Hollywood because the same personality types prevail in both worlds – elitists frustrated that the hoi poloi doesn’t appreciate their obvious superiority and refuses to worship them.

    Progressive Hollywood film makers love making movies where the world consists of a tiny group of elite evil corporate executives and massive numbers of the downtrodden. Yet when they get to run California that’s exactly what they create. California has become a third world shit-hole with a wealthy ruling elite and homeless people pissing and shitting in the street.

    The Silicon Gang also loves post-apocalyptic movies because they don’t fear Skynet, they think they are Skynet and that they will eventually exterminate the non-progressives and turn the rest into worshipers.

  16. Sen. Ed Markey (D?Mass.)

    Why do I always read that name as “Malarkey”?

    Still actually *have* a Faceborg account, but stopped visiting it the end of August after some group there pissed me off. Surprisingly it was a group of people who frequented a new-wave club in the early 80’s, rather than one of the science-fiction or political groups you would expect. I had the *nerve* to discuss present-day “alternative” music (in this case, Vocaloid) on a group for people who listened to alternative music of the early 80’s. Only joined Farcebook because we were using it to coordinate a reunion show of local bands (again, early 80’s). Unfortunately I may have to back on now (in the midst of all this crap) because FB is how my science-fiction club coordinates “Hangouts” chats.

    One thing for certain; if I’m going back on Farceborg, I’m shutting off ALL feeds from “friends” and only monitoring groups. Really don’t need to hear rants from progressives (or even conservatives), someone telling me how much they like “Lost”, or what they had for lunch today.

    Let’s not even get into more personal dislikes of Zuck, who uses all that FB money to bribe and buy-off county executives to tear up a functional tourist railroad so that he and three friends can have a bike trail.

  17. “Republicans see Facebook, with thousands of employees steeped in the deep blue sentiments of the San Francisco bay area, as tilting to the left.”

    Apparently Zuckerberg agrees:

    “”First, I understand where that concern is coming from because Facebook and the tech industry are located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place. And this is actually a concern that I have and that I try to root out in the company is making sure that we don’t have any bias in the work that we do, and I think it is a fair concern that people would at least wonder about.””

  18. The best thing to do in this situation is nothing. Google, Facebook and Twitter are destroying themselves.

    SJWs have infected what used to be a tech meritocracy. Back in the 90s tech people were mostly non-political libertarian leaning types.

    Silicon valley has swung so far left that many talented people simply will not work there. Healthcare, finance and defense all pay well, and they want tech people too.

    Eventually all these left-leaning tech companies will be beaten by companies who are politically agnostic and hire based on merit.

    The current silicon valley titans would do well to learn from the history of silicon valley’s failed companies – but they won’t.

  19. There is a tear running down my thigh for social media’s predicament.

  20. Be Worried for the Future of the Social Media.

    Social media can go die in a fire.

    1. I can only hope and dream for the death of social media.

  21. Why would anyone feel sorry for Zuckerberg? He’s the one who called users who trust him ‘dumb fucks’.

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