Zuckerberg takes blame for lapses

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears before a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears before a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Image: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg placed the blame for privacy and security lapses at the world’s largest social network squarely on himself as he girded for appearances this week on Capitol Hill before angry legislators.

In prepared remarks released by a congressional panel, Zuckerberg admitted he was too idealistic and failed to grasp how the platform -used by two billion people – could be abused and manipulated.

The 33-year-old was due to testify before senators today and House lawmakers tomorrow amid widespread anger over the hijacking of data on millions of Facebook users by the British firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked with Donald Trump’s campaign.

On Monday, Zuckerberg ditched his trademark T-shirt for a suit and tie as he made the rounds on Capitol Hill with his assistant, Andrea Besmehn, for private meetings with politicians before the hearings – a key test for the Facebook founder.

“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,” Zuckerberg said in his written testimony released by the House commerce committee.

“I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens.”

In his written remarks, Zuckerberg called Facebook an idealistic and optimistic company and said: “We focused on all the good that connecting people can bring.”

But he acknowledged that “it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.”

I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens.
Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg said he had called for more investments in security that would significantly impact profitability going forward.

“I want to be clear about what our priority is: protecting our community is more important than maximising our profit.”

Zuckerberg recounted a list of steps announced by Facebook aimed at averting a repeat of the improper use of data by third parties like Cambridge Analytica, and noted that other applications were also being investigated.

“If we detect suspicious activity, we’ll do a full forensic audit. And if we find that someone is improperly using data, we’ll ban them and tell everyone affected.”

After meeting with him on Monday, Senator Bill Nelson said Zuckerberg appeared to be taking the matter seriously.

“I believe he understands that regulation could be right around the corner,” Nelson said.

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