It looks like Mark Zuckerberg just got an embarrassing taste of his own medicine.
The Facebook CEO must’ve been shaken up after being grilled by Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Ted Cruz yesterday just before taking the first of several breaks during yesterday’s Odyssey-like Senate hearing, because he left a copy of his hearing notes on the table in plain view of press photographers, who were quick to “document” them.
While photographers only managed to photograph the top pages of Zuckerberg’s lengthy memo, they provided insight into how Zuckerberg would’ve handled questions about whether Facebook should be broken up – which he was never asked, though Sen. Lindsey Graham came closest by asking Zuck if he felt Facebook had monopolistic power (Zuckerberg elicited chuckles by claiming “it doesn’t feel that way to me” in response).
As the notes reveal, Zuck was prepared to cite competition with China as a reason why his company should remain intact.
“Break Up FB? U.S. tech companies key asset for America; break up strengthens Chinese companies,” the document read, according to a photo published by the Associated Press.
The answer, as Bloomberg points out, contrasts with Zuckerberg’s efforts to woo Chinese officials as he seeks to regain entry to the Chinese market. Chinese officials have banned many US tech companies from operating in the world’s second largest economy.
Facebook’s planned response — to cite rising competition with China — also contrasts with Zuckerberg’s efforts to woo Chinese officials to let the company expand in the country. The social network is now barred from the market along with many of its U.S. peers, which helps domestic social media titans such as Tencent Holdings Ltd. thrive.
If pressed about Facebook’s dominance of the global advertising market, Zuckerberg was prepared to argue that Facebook represents only a tiny sliver – roughly 6% of a $650 billion market.
But according to Bloomberg Intelligence, Facebook and Google together still dominant the global ad market, with Facebook posting nearly 26% market share and Alphabet holding more than 60%.
The pages documented by reporters featured notes on 15 topics in all, from issues of data safety to diversity to election integrity to how the company handles violent or disturbing content.
The most-detailed section focused on Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the center of the controversy surrounding Facebook’s data sharing practices.
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Meanwhile, Slate offered a rundown of the five other interesting topics outlined in Zuckerberg’s notes:
“Let’s be clear: Facebook doesn’t sell your data. You own your information. We give you controls.” – It’s true that Facebook has given its users an ever-finer degree of control of their privacy settings over the years. The problem is that it’s often buried those settings or made them indecipherable – and that Facebook’s business model doesn’t really work unless a substantial number of its users can’t be bothered to think about them.
There’s a section on diversity, and the first canned answer places Facebook’s particular workforce diversity problem within the context of a broader problem in the industry: “Silicon Valley has a problem, and Facebook is part of that problem.” The second talking point includes Facebook’s diversity numbers: “3% African American, 5% Hispanic.” These numbers cover the entire company and are much lower if you look at technical roles and leadership roles at Facebook.
There are talking points about Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent critique of Facebook’s ad-targeting business model, many of which sounded a little like fighting words—like “Lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data, never seen Apple notify people” and “Important to hold everyone to the same standard.” Ouch!
The EU’s General Data Protection Rule
The notes include a section on the EU’s General Data Protection Rule, or GDPR, which is the new comprehensive data privacy legislation going into effect across Europe next month. Facebook’s public relations team has found a way to spin Europe’s robust consumer protection requirements into a talking point against the need for similar laws in the United States. “GDPR does a few things,” the cheat sheet says. “Provides control over data use – what we’ve done for years. Requires consent—done a little bit, but now doing more in Europe and around the world,” read two of the bullet points. Those statements carry the suggestion that Facebook doesn’t need American regulations on top of European ones.
Zuckerberg was even prepared to defend himself in case a senator suggested he throw in the towel: “Resign? Founded Facebook. My decisions. I made mistakes. Big challenge, but we’ve solved problems before, going to solve this one. Already taking action.” Dramatic.
Of course, there were many pages of notes below the two that were documented by the press – so just because a topic wasn’t included above doesn’t mean Zuck wasn’t prepared to answer. Zuck will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. The hearing is set to begin at 10 am ET.
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