Critical Takeaways From Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Media Blitz.



Mark Zuckerberg was on the road Wednesday, apologizing to you for Facebook’s inability to protect your data. These are the highlights.

DESPENDING on how you look at it, Mark Zuckerberg took either five or two years to respond publicly to the data privacy crisis that rocked Facebook. It sent its stock price plummeting and inspired users to delete their accounts.

Zuckerberg knew Cambridge Analytica was a data company that helped Donald Trump in his 2016 campaign. It has acquired 50 million Facebook users’ data from a third-party researcher since 2015. The public fury over the misuse of this data did not reach a boiling point until Saturday when The New York Times published its investigations, citing Christopher Wylie, The Guardian, and The Observer.

While Facebook made public statements about the scandal, Zuckerberg was silent.

This was true up to Wednesday. After publishing a lengthy Facebook post in which he acknowledged his company’s errors and made a series of changes, Zuckerberg began a media blitz. He spoke with a few journalists, including Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, and participated in rare TV interviews with CNN.

Zuckerberg generally stuck to the script. He did admit to Facebook’s errors and released a series of updates to protect privacy further. But he still managed to make some headlines. Here are some lessons we took away from Zuckerberg’s apology tour.

In an interview with The New York Times, Zuckerberg explained what Facebook has learned from the 2016 election. He cited the recent special election in Alabama between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. Zuckerberg stated, “In 2017, with the special election of Alabama, we used some new [artificial Intelligence] tools to identify fake accounts or false news, and we discovered a significant amount of Macedonian accounts trying to spread false information and were able to eliminate them.”

Although he did not elaborate on what the company discovered or how the new tools were trained and applied, the fake information appears to be an extension of the fake news sites in Macedonia during the 2016 election. The sites were run mainly by teens with no stake in US politics and offered their creators quick money through the ads that appeared on them.

Zuckerberg May Support Some Regulation

According to Zuckerberg, Facebook is open to regulation. This includes the Honest Ads Act. The bill was introduced by Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner, and Republican senator John McCain. It would require that digital ads be more transparent about who is paying them, their target audience, and the cost. From what I have seen, most of the stuff there is good. It is supported,” Zuckerberg said to WIRED. This is, however, a low-risk claim by Zuckerberg. The Honest Ads Act, one of the most light-handed suggestions for how to regulate the tech industry right now, is being implemented by Facebook. As Zuckerberg acknowledged, it is unlikely that the bill will pass.

In an interview with CNN later, Zuckerberg stated that “I’m still not sure” we shouldn’t regulate advertising. Still, he only offered specific policies Facebook would like to adopt other than increasing transparency in advertising.

Zuckerberg would (Maybe?) testify before Congress.

Zuckerberg was careful in his choice of words when answering Congressional requests to testify before Congress’ Senate Judiciary Committee. He said that if it ever becomes a case that I am the most knowledgeable person at Facebook and in the best position for testifying, I will happily do so,” he told WIRED in a statement that he repeated to other outlets.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean Zuckerberg will soon appear on Capitol Hill. Interview after interview, the CEO stated that Facebook sends people most knowledgeable about the subject to testify. He told WIRED that there are employees at the company whose sole jobs are legal compliance or other related matters. They are fundamentally more knowledgeable about those details.

It could be. However, Facebook’s current existential crisis makes it imperative that its CEO has a solid grasp of these details.

Facebook’s Fixes will be costly.

Recode spoke with Zuckerberg about how it has been challenging and costly to audit Facebook apps over the years to ensure they have handled data correctly. “You know, we have had internal conversations about this: “Are there enough auditors trained worldwide to perform the number of audits we need quickly?” Zuckerberg said.

He said it would likely cost millions to hire the required number of people to conduct such an investigation. It seems worthwhile considering Facebook’s market value after the scandal, which is now nearly $485 billion.

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