Browsing the blog archives for April, 2018.

Takeaways from the Zuckerberg Testimony


I decided to wait a few days after Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress before posting my comments to see if it had any staying power. I don’t think it did. This is unfortunate because there are several important takeaways.

First, I was miffed at how little Zuckerberg professed to know about the underlying issues. His response to the hotel question was baffling ( He struggled to define hate speech and actually suggested that an algorithm should make the determination ( He was evasive, but most Senators gave him a pass.

Second, I was also astonished at how little those questioning Zuckerberg seemed to understand about Facebook’s business model. It’s really simple: Facebook gives you a platform, while advertisers pay the costs in exchange for the right to target you with their content. Effective targeting requires that marketers know who you are, which is why your personal data is so important. How can you engage Zuckerberg in a serious discussion if you don’t understand why Facebook’s success in the first place?

Finally, Zuckerberg seems okay with the inevitability of regulation. Of course, “government oversight” gives him cover and creates compliance costs that potential competitors would be less able to afford. His willingness to “work with Washington” has nothing to do with solving Facebook’s problems and everything to do about protecting Facebook’s control of the industry. He should be smart enough to do that on his own. There’s no reason why he can’t accept safeguard the data he captures or develop a customer agreement that a reasonable individual can understand.

Mark Zuckerberg is not my favorite person, but he’s a smart guy. I think he has little respect for privacy and I am concerned about the data breaches, but it’s time for consumers to accept some responsibility. If you are willing to post personal information on Facebook for hundreds of your “friends” to see, don’t be appalled when you discover that advertisers act on it as well. It should be obvious that public formats like Facebook will be full of fake news as well. While some industry oversight regarding the clarity of user agreements and data security is necessary, the federal government should largely stay on the sidelines. Government regulation usually makes things worse, this would not be an exception.