In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg went to Congress to face a grilling amid rapidly mounting concerns over the power, privacy and control of the internet giant Facebook. There were questions about how Facebook handles data, election interference and perceived censorship of politically conservative voices. What drove Zuckerberg to confront the ire of Congress, and what were the outcomes of the hearing?
For years, Facebook has grown from strength to strength, setting up a global business based on extracting and using data from users.Despite its impressive growth, Facebooks operational practices,such as how it uses and shares user data, were coming into question.The Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook user data was used to influence the 2016 US presidential election,led to calls for increased regulation. The scandal led to public outcry and pressure from legislators, keeping Facebook continuously on the back foot.
To make matters worse, there were accusations of censorship of conservative voices. Because a majority of Facebook content moderators are Democrats,there were concerns of systemic suppression of certain opinions,which added to the momentum of criticism and regulatory attention.With the company already under intense fire, the hearing before Congress promised to grill Zuckerberg on all of Facebook’s operational flaws.The outrage was so volatile that the hearing could very well decide the fate of Facebook.
At the hearing, Zuckerberg realized that he was facing a fight that he needed to win in order to turn the tide. He needed to demonstrate that Facebook has procedures in place to protect users’ data and rights,and that the company is neutral in arbitrating content and suppressing opinions. To the surprise of many, Zuckerberg showed the necessary dedication to addressing his company’s problems. He seemed knowledgeable and sincere in his answers. He expressed genuine regret for Facebook’s mistakes and proposed potential resolutions to ensure similar mistakes won’t be made in the future. He defended his company’s integrity and expressed a willingness to cooperate with Congress on substantiated conclusions.
One of the most notable outcomes of the hearing is that the US Government has proposed the ‘Honest Ads Act’,which seeks to ensure transparency in online political advertising.The Act covers online advertisements as part of a broader series of measures that would regulate digital marketing campaigns. Essentially, it would help ensure that all political ads have explicit disclaimers spelling out who paid for them, creating an open and transparent mechanism for controlling the political narrative.
The hearing also revealed that Facebook is considering establishing multi-tiered systems of verification for different types of postings on the platform, such as political advertisements. For example, long-form postings would require more comprehensive verification processes than short-term ones. This would hopefully stop fraudulent information from manipulating elections.
Zuckerberg also laid out ways to help people better understand the content they consume. One such way is to increase the amount of helpful information in the News Feed, such as ‘mythbusters’ from qualified fact-checkers that can help people assess the accuracy of different articles.
New Regulations and Guidelines for Facebook
The hearing was an incredible opportunity for Facebook to put forth its proposed regulation and guidelines for its own operations. Zuckerberg proposed introducing Artificial Intellligence to ensure better oversight of how the platform is being used, a major step forward in determining who should and shouldn’t be able to share content. Additionally, it would help automate the process of detecting any misrepresentations or biases that go against Facebook’s policies.
Facebook also committed to introducing new measures to increase the visibility of users in their posts and ads. This is necessary to ensure that marketers and political operatives can’t target specific demographics or users with lies or misinformation. In addition, Facebook promised to double its safety and security team to over 20,000 people to prevent the misuse of the platform.The new proactive security policies would include additional measures such as detecting potentially malicious activities, machine learning and artificial intelligence, among others.
Zuckerberg mentioned that Facebook requires customers to opt-in for their data to be shared with third parties, and that users do not experience any changes unless they specifically agree to those changes. He also stated that the company had made numerous changes to its policies over the last two years to ensure users are aware of what data is shared and how.
Robust procedures to protect user data
One of the major reasons why Zuckerberg went before Congress was to take responsibility for the way Facebook had previously handled user data. Experienced economic experts have stated that Facebook’s perspective on user data had previously been that it was theirs to harvest and share without consulting the user first. This attitude has now changed, thanks to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the hearing.
At the hearing, Zuckerberg stressed the importance of customer trust and proposed ways to protect user data from data harvesting. He proposed different levels of customer permission that must be provided before any information can be released. He proposed setting up ‘robust review systems’ that would allow engineers to screen any changes that are made to user data before it is released, a system that is currently in place for some applications. He stated that these systems shouldn’t be taken lightly and that appropriate testing should be conducted to ensure customer data is protected.
Furthermore, Zuckerberg acknowledged the importance of providing users with the ability to opt-in or out of certain data sharing activities. He implied that users should be allowed to make decisions based upon their understanding of the company’s data sharing policies, and have the right to opt out of data sharing if they feel uncomfortable with certain activities. He also proposed an additional layer of transparency where users are notified whenever their data is gathered and used, thus ensuring they are fully aware of the activities that their data is being used for.
Preventing election meddling
At the end of the hearing, Zuckerberg agreed to work with the US government to prevent election meddling in the future. The company has drafted several proposals, such as developing robust procedures for detecting and removing fraudulent content, as well as filtering out false and inaccurate news.
Zuckerberg also proposed developing algorithms to identify patterns of suspicious activity,such as the repeated creation of fake users and accounts. He proposed using machine learning to identify new types of potential election interference, such as ‘bot-net’ activity,in order to protect elections from outside interference.
In addition, Zuckerberg proposed setting up an independent ‘Election Integrity Commission’ to monitor elections around the world and investigate allegations of abuse. The Commission would consist of representatives from multiple political parties and other organizations with an interest in preventing election meddling. This would ensure that all parties have a seat at the table when it comes to elections.
Increasing transparency and accountability
In the wake of the hearing, Zuckerberg has committed to introducing greater transparency and accountability in the way Facebook is run. He has proposed introducing stricter guidelines to prevent the misuse of user data, and has asked for government input and oversight.
He has agreed to work with legislators to ensure that Facebook follows the highest standards when it comes to user data and privacy.Part of this involves providing stronger data protection,developing more sophisticated ways of detecting and preventing election meddling,and introducing more transparency and accountability in the way Facebook handles content.
In addition, Zuckerberg has agreed to provide an annual report on how Facebook is protecting user data and preventing election interference.This report would be published online and would serve as an open-source document that would allow lawmakers and the public to monitor Facebook’s activities and progress.
Introducing consumer-friendly tools and features
One of the main topics discussed in the hearing was how Facebook can increase consumer protection and make sure that users are in the know when it comes to their data and the activities of the platform. To address this, Zuckerberg proposed introducing several tools and features that can help make users more aware of their data and activities. For example, he proposed introducing a ‘privacy dashboard’ that can be accessed by users to see and manage their data, as well as a tool that can help users uncover and control what personal information is being shared with advertisers.
Additionally, he proposed introducing educational materials and better customer service options,along with improved content moderation processes and better user interface designs. This would ensure users are always aware of the privacy restrictions of the platform and the data that is being used.
Overall, the hearing provided valuable insights into how Facebook can make positive changes to protect its users and their data. Zuckerberg was able to show that his company is taking the necessary steps to address its past mistakes and improve the way it operates. The proposals put forth have already gone a long way in helping increase consumer confidence in the platform.