“As Facebook has grown, people everywhere have gotten a powerful new tool to stay connected to the people they love, make their voices heard, and build communities and businesses … But it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well,” he will say.
The last time Mark Zuckerberg was publicly grilled, in 2010, it was excruciating:
Eight years ago, with Facebook two years away from going public, Zuckerberg, then 26-years-old, was clearly out his league on the big but not so bad stage.
Things have changed.
Facebook now has a market cap of $450+ billion and is used by more than two billion people. It is a magnificently successful company.
But Russian agents used Facebook to manipulate an American presidential election. Zuckerberg will have to answer for his company.
My concern is that this urgent hearing will become a made-for-television circus: Zuckerberg will offer an apology and hold the party line; members of Congress, the Know-Nothings, will make vague, cheap assertions wholly detached from the severe and growing problem of disinformation.
With the rare exception — notably, Senator Mark Warner — the Know-Nothings do not understand the technical details of Russia’s hacking. Worse, the Know-Nothings may not care about the technical details. They may be satisfied with a thirty-second soundbite that loops on MSNBC or Fox.
If that happens, both sides will claim victory; Zuckerberg will go back to Menlo Park, out of the public eye; and the Know-Nothings will garble something about “capitalism” or “big technology” while parading a fake scalp in front of their made-for-television base.
The result will be that democracy remains at risk.