Facing unprecedented pressure to step away from the business he created, Zuckerberg’s woes go far beyond his looming appearance at Capitol Hill.

By Daniel Herborn


Posted on April 9, 2018

On Tuesday, 10 April, Zuckerberg will face questioning by the Senate’s Judiciary and Commerce committees. The following day, he fronts the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Even if he performs well under what is expected to be gruelling questioning, there are likely to be ongoing calls for him to exit the social platform. There is also growing support for Facebook to be subject to stricter regulation.

Separate to the Congress appearances, on 19 March 2018, the US Federal Trade Commission confirmed it was undertaking an ongoing investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices.

Both sides of US politics have made clear that Zuckerberg has serious questions to answer.

Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) said in a statement that “to truly gain back the public’s trust, Facebook will have to make significant changes so this doesn’t happen again.”

Facebook has more than two billion users worldwide, but so far Zuckerberg has only agreed to testify in front of US lawmakers.

Facebook has more than two billion users worldwide, but so far Zuckerberg has only agreed to testify in front of US lawmakers.

A UK parliamentary committee investigating fake news on social media platforms slammed his repeated refusals to testify before UK members of parliament as “astonishing”.

Fallout from Cambridge Analytica scandal

It is anticipated Zuckerberg will face extended questioning from committee members on Facebook’s response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In March 2018, it emerged that the big data firm had illegally accessed and retained data from tens of millions of Facebook users on behalf of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Facebook has since been heavily criticised for knowing about this breach and failing to take action quickly enough.

Zuckerberg has shown an ability to navigate through scandals and dissatisfaction with Facebook before, but he faces renewed pressure as he heads into the hearings.

For five days after the story broke, nothing was heard from Zuckerberg. His delayed public response to the scandal was widely criticised.

When he was finally interviewed on CNN, Zuckerberg apologised for the widespread data breach, but his performance was generally seen as unconvincing. One account of the interview even likened him to an “awkward teenage robot”.

Zuckerberg has always been more effective as a boardroom visionary than a media performer, but his latest round of public appearances has led to questions over whether he is the best person to lead the company.

Tech investors and commentators have suggested COO Sheryl Sandberg take over as CEO of Facebook.

His reaction to the scandal has been one of the reasons Facebook’s net worth has plummeted in recent times. Almost US$50 billion was wiped off the company’s value in a week, as both users and advertisers lost faith in its privacy measures.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg’s apparent ambition to run for President, while never confirmed, has also taken a major blow.

Calls for greater transparency

In the CNN interview, Zuckerberg offered qualified support for Facebook being regulated.

“If you look at how much regulation there is around advertising in TV and print, it’s just not clear why there should be less on the internet,” Zuckerberg said.

“You should have the same level of transparency required.”

Earlier this year, Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff suggested Facebook should be subject to the same regulation as another industry he said was similarly addictive, cigarettes.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was also among those calling for Facebook to face tougher regulation in the wake of the scandal.

Zuckerberg and his Facebook colleagues have at least shown some willingness to change. On 4 April, the company announced plans to restrict the information that apps using Facebook could access.

In an interview with Wired, Zuckerberg also offered support for the Honest Ads Act and claimed Facebook is likely to implement many of the regulations the bill sets out, even if it does not become law.

The 2017 bill proposes social media platforms with more than 50 million monthly users be obligated to disclose information when any political advertiser spends more than US$500 on ads on the platform.