As Facebook launches its new cryptocurrency project Libra, the company's CEO had to face the genius legal wrath of The Squad member AOC.
Social media bigwig Facebook is just about set to launch its own cryptocurrency project, Libra. However, prior to its launch, Congress is in a unique position to make a few legal decisions about the project. This is especially important because of Facebook's questionable past regarding the platform's role in influencing the 2016 Presidential elections through biased and factually wrong sponsored posts and ads. Therefore, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced a grueling examination by Congress lawmakers on Wednesday, October 23, during a special Congressional hearing. While there were many highlights from the interrogation, freshman Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez definitely stole the show with her strategic and critical questioning, The Guardian reports. Needless to say, Zuckerberg was left stumped.
Ocasio-Cortez's questions revolved around the Cambridge Analytica scandal Facebook was involved in and the social media platform's staunch reluctance to police the political adverts that appear on their website. The Congresswoman stated before asking Zuckerberg when he had initially learned of Cambridge Analytica’s operations, "In order for us to make decisions about Libra, I think we need to kind of dig into your past behavior and Facebook’s past behavior with respect to our democracy." The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal was, of course, a major breach of American citizens' privacy; Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, had harvested and analyzed the personal data of millions of users' Facebook profiles without their active consent. The firm then utilized their learnings to influence political advertising on Facebook, which experts believe changed the course of the 2016 Presidential elections.
Evidence of internal Facebook communication uncovered this year as part of a tedious lawsuit revealed that executives at the company had become aware of Cambridge Analytica's operations as early as September 2015, over a year before the elections took place. Despite this, Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives have declined to comment on the timeline of events, particularly about when they had first come to know of the consulting firm's activities. The Facebook CEO stated on Wednesday, "[I found out] around the time [the news] became public… Around March of 2018." When questioned further about whether anyone on his team had been aware before the report published by The Guardian in December 2015, he responded, "I believe some folks were tracking it internally. I do think I was aware of Cambridge Analytica as an entity earlier, but I don’t know if I was tracking how they were using Facebook specifically."
"The Squad" member then went on to grill the Facebook CEO about the platform's lack of fact-checking when it comes to political advertisements. She asked pointedly, "Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?" Citing an example, she proposed a scenario in which she could "pay to advertise an incorrect election date to people in a primarily black zip code" in order to perpetuate voter suppression, an ongoing problem in the United States. When he didn't give her a straight answer, she continued, "So, you won't take down lies or you will take down lies? I think that's just a pretty simple yes or no."
"So, you won't take down lies or you will take down lies? I think that's just a pretty simple yes or no."— CSPAN (@cspan) October 23, 2019
Complete exchange between @RepAOC @AOC and Mark Zuckerberg at today's House Financial Services Cmte hearing.
Full video here: https://t.co/heT7Psnlp1 pic.twitter.com/0iiWtfU5gQ
Additionally, Ocasio-Cortez questioned the billionaire about his "dinner parties with far-right figures" and whether or not he discussed the all-pervasive rightwing theory that Facebook conducts crackdowns on conservative posts - a question he, once again, dodged. This was a monumental hearing for Zuckerberg, as it marked the first time he had appeared before Congress since April 2018. Though he acknowledged Facebook's mistakes, his responses were lukewarm and left many important questions unanswered. He asserted, "I get that I’m not the ideal messenger for this right now. We’ve faced a lot of issues over the past few years and I’m sure there are a lot of people who wish it were anyone but Facebook that was helping to propose this." His shoddy responses could have long-staying ramifications for Facebook's Libra project, the country's ability to keep up with the global e-currency industry, as well as the future of American democracy.