Is Congress Qualified To Question Mark Zuckerberg?


It’s entirely possible that Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has taken a leaf from Napoleon’s crib sheet in the oft quoted, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” It seemed like that to me anyway as members of congress quite willingly exposed their tech ignorance as Zuckerberg appeared to look on in bemused fascination, as would a school teacher trying not to patronise a wayward pupil. On the other hand, he may well have been musing, “Who are these idiots?”

I wasn’t at all surprised at the level of ignorance shown by many at the congressional gathering. After all, that’s what assistants are for, isn’t it? To handle the daily cascade of social media? Up to a point I suppose, but if you’re going to question the boss of the most notable social networking company in the world, you’d better read up a little on it first. Or maybe even use the service once in a while.

Sen Orrin Hatch (R-UT): “So, how do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?”

Zuckerberg: “Senator, we run ads.”

Look, I know the honorable senator is 84 years old, but he is a lawyer by trade and a basic understanding of how advertising drives certain businesses is pretty fundamental. Mind you, credit to Zuckerberg for for not smirking too much, especially since he probably realised that he’d fallen into a game of softball and was probably going to get away with it. But wait! Why the booster cushion on his seat?


There are many theories in circulation, but my own is that he could perhaps slide it down his pants should Congress decide to give him a damn good thrashing. Which they didn’t of course, because of the lack of understanding from many members of the esteemed company on the subject matter in hand.

Here’s another one…

Sen Brian Schatz (D): “If I’m emailing within WhatsApp… does that inform your advertisers?”

Zuckerberg: “Whatsapp data is encrypted…” A sound reply and resisting the temptation to point out that Whatsapp is not even an email program.

To be fair to Mr Zuckerberg, he was on his best behaviour, trying not to look bored stiff as much as any Android can, but the questions kept on coming.


Billy Long (R-MO): “What’s Facemash and is it still running?” — as if this has got anything to do with anything, when no one has even heard of Facemash. This was a reference of course to an early App that Zuck had allegedly developed in his dorm and depicted in the film Social Network.

Sen Deb Fischer, (R) Nebraska asked about how much data was stored and where, as if all this stuff was loaded into filing boxes at some giant warehouse in Menlo park, California.

Still, on day two of the hearings Facebook stock leapt 4.5% which would have meant some extra pocket money for the boy in blue and all in all he got off pretty lightly. Having watched numerous videos of these encounters, I was left with the impression that Mark Zuckerberg probably felt he was visiting an old folks’ home trying to explain to them how to tune their out-of-date TV, or how to use the remote control for the VCR. What’s your take on the Zuckerberg/Congress encounter?

About the Author

Marc Thomas

Marc is an avid traveler, motorcyclist, entrepreneur, and gamer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. His interest in computers and technology began in the early 1990's when he was introduced by a friend to a Zenith Data Systems computer running DOS. In the years following he has experienced all versions of the Windows operating system, built hundreds of systems, and fixed many more for his customers. Marc also has an interesting forum you might like to check out at Argentina Expats

9 Comments

  1. I don’t really care. I have never used Facebook and never will. To me, social media is all about making yourself look good in front of the whole world. I don’t need that kind of stress in my life. If someone actually expects their data to be private while using social media then that person needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

    • I used to think like this Steve, but since I now have a community forum, a computer business with a website and a soon to be published novel, I view social media as a tool with massive potential for spreading the word.
      It’s also free of charge, which is not to be sniffed at.
      Having said all that, I confess to having posted a picture of our cat yesterday.

  2. Social Media does have place. Like all technology, some people just lack the common sense to use products. If you are a Professional or own a business and want advertising, or keep in touch with people, then Social Media is for you. You most likely know the risks of exposure, and wave your rights.

    Unfortunately many individuals have no clue, that whatever they share on the Internet, stays on the Internet forever, Mindblower!

  3. We (authors) are not generally supposed to respond to other authors’ articles… sorry, can’t help myself.

    Emphatically… NO! I literally cringed at many of the Senators’ questions, how embarrassing!

    I was left with the impression that Mark Zuckerberg probably felt he was visiting an old folks’ home trying to explain to them how to tune their out-of-date TV, or how to use the remote control for the VCR.

    Exactly! You nailed it brother.

  4. Facebook is many hings to many people – to some young people it is a platform for finding like minded friends, keeping some kind of public journal (which can be restricted to friends viewing, publishing their photos and airing their opinions on politcal and other matters. For older people, especially parents it is a great way to have an insight into the world of your children/grandchildren – Mostly this is a help in understanding them but can be means to spot dangers in their everyday life without stooping to use a spying app. It is also a great way of finding and contacting old friends you have lost contact with and in some cases maintaining a light relationship with them. I have also noticed that companies with a facebook presence but who choose to ignore emails and fend off calls will often respond very quickly to address issues once they are posted onto their facebook pages. (it is rather like being able to put your complaint onto some of their advertising billboards at which stage they start to take it seriously because they know facebook influences people. There also many groups on facebook where you can post questions and get responses about any manner of technical difficulties without waiting in a never ending call queue. Sure there are individual apps and other alternatives to all these things but Facebook is a kind of one stop shop for this.
    I have know since the outset that a service like this costs millions of pounds to provide and that it is funded by advertising, not just ads but also product placement in postings and through gathering and selling information that I choose to make publicly available. The internet for me has always meant the provision of services and communications without direct cost to the public. Introducing even modest subscription models has greatly reduced the membership of many sites and in many cases sent them to oblivion. A £5 a year subscription (which I did pay) sunk a really great site for contacting old friends and colleagues – FriendsReuinited – who, because they were smaller compared to facebook, could not attract enough advertising or paye employees to keep it running.

    If facebook were to start charging a private user subscription thereby entering a legal enforcable contract about when they could and could not do (FB and the Users) Then it would decline rapidly and likely be out of existance within half a decade. There is a reason why music and video piracy still exists despite all attempts to ban it. The internet has shown people that entertainment, news, services etc CAN be provided free of charge in exchange for advertising and information gathering, and that this is a price a substantial number of people accept.

    Lastly there is no excuse for our politicians not understanding the internet – I am 71 and have no problem with it. It is also important that they represent the interests of their constituents in IT issues – at the moment they are influenced by big businesses, small unrepresentative pressure groups and the press – seldom do they ask us individuals what we want. Ironically this is something they could easily and cheaply do through the internet – when was the last time your political representative sent you a simple survey about what you would like done in your name?

    • You make some very pertinent points there gbswales.
      I too have noticed that many companies use Facebook as their de facto product support, whilst largely ignoring tech support on their own websites.
      In fact, this is one of the main reasons I still cling on to Facebook.

  5. “Find Us On Facebook” comments and Facebook ‘LogoWaving’ along with the ‘advertising-mad world’ we now live in is appalling..

  6. Zuckerberg did well. But as an old guy with 3 business degrees, and a lot of post college work,who most of his career supported researcher engineers and scientists, all pretty intelligent,and some brilliant, there was a reason I sometimes called them “intelligent idiots.” Sometimes I was wrong, but one thing they often lacked was what myself and a few other non-scientists, brought – a different view about what we were doing. Like some of the senators, I tried to know enough about their work to be objective, even if I didn’t understand the specifics. Facebook can connect – and it can damage. That is why Zuckerberg was called.

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