Mark Zuckerberg made "a big mistake" he told Congress in a statement released one day before he's expected to testify before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Facebook's chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a 7-page pre-written statement — dated for his testimony on Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee — apologizing for not taking "a broad enough view of our responsibility," despite all the good the network has done over the years, he says.
"But it's clear now that we didn't do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well," Zuckerberg says. "That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy."
Facebook, caught in the scandal of its 14-year-old life, is fighting to regain its users' trust — and that of Congress as well. Lawmakers summoned the 33-year-old tech entrepreneur to Capitol Hill demanding answers as to how the social media giant could allow a data company, Cambridge Analytica (CA), to scrape approximately 87 million profiles from Facebook accounts — and sell them.
Zuckerberg released his statement a little more than 24 hours before he is expected to speak tomorrow. Much of the written testimony talks about how Facebook is making changes to its network from re-examining apps on the platform to making it easier for people to remove permissions they've already granted.
A significant portion of the statement, however, is a mea culpa, where Zuckerberg states he understands his company — which he launched from his dorm room while a college student at Harvard College— needs to do more than "just give people a voice, we have to make sure people aren't using it to hurt people or spread misinformation," he writes.
Facebook claims nearly 2.2 billion users on its site — nearly 30 percent of the population of the world. CA was able to gain access to about 4 percent of those accounts through a survey people opted into that then scraped their profile information — and those of their Facebook friends. Although Facebook knew about the survey, and the data that had been taken in 2015, the company decided to trust CA when it said the data had been destroyed, even though it had not.
Separately, Facebook is also trying to gain a handle on fake accounts, pages and campaigns that the company says are being created by a group called the Internet Research Agency (IRA), shutting down hundreds of these accounts, which have created around than 80,000 posts over the past two years, since before the U.S. Presidential Election in 2016. Facebook believes about 126 million people "may have been served content from a Facebook Page associated with the IRA at some point during that period," Zuckerberg says in his written testimony.
It's likely Facebook's CEO will read the statement on Tuesday, and then take questions from Congress. But Zuckerberg is clearly coming with his hat in his hand, hoping that an apology will make up for the damage.
"We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake," says Zuckerberg. "It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here.