- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2018

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s marathon two-day command performance before two congressional panels has been met with a wave of worry from the tech industry that Washington does not understand the world of social media well enough to regulate it.

While many Silicon Valley executives and tech publications felt the 33-year-old billionaire at times came across on Capitol Hill as “well-rehearsed” and “evasive” on a host of issues, including his firm’s data-leak scandal, more troubling was the inability of too many lawmakers to grill him on specifics.

Fast Company magazine headlined its report, “Zuckerberg just proved once again that Congress doesn’t understand the internet.” Reporter Mark Sullivan wrote that the “jumbled Facebook hearing left little faith that Congress could ever draft a useful data-protection bill, much less agree on one.”

George Arison, founder of the used-car website Shift Technologies Inc, told the Wall Street Journal, “Most people in Congress don’t have a clue about what [tech] actually does. That’s a very dangerous situation to be in.”

The MIT Technology Review called Mr. Zuckerberg “well-rehearsed” and “evasive.”

In Wired magazine, information warfare expert Molly K. McKew took a more critical view, saying the hearings exposed Capitol Hill’s inability to address the Russian election-meddling issue, calling the failure to press the Facebook founder the biggest disappointment of the highly-anticipated hearings.

“The gaping hole at the center of both hearings was the virtual absence of questions on the tactics and purpose of Russian information operations conducted against Americans on Facebook during the 2016 elections,” she wrote.

“This is also important because Zuckerberg expressed extreme skepticism about sharing data with the U.S. government. Does he feel the same way about foreign entities?”

Many tech watchers felt Mr. Zuckerberg had a rougher time on his second day of testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, facing pointed questions about political bias against conservatives on Facebook and how tougher privacy controls may affect the company’s business model.

Even the tech-savvy members of Congress had trouble pinning down Mr. Zuckerberg, who promised repeatedly to check with “my team” on detailed questions and refused to be pinned down on Facebook’s level of responsibility for those who use the company’s various platforms.

“Even [the lawmakers] who did know what they were talking about were largely ineffective in their sparring with Zuckerberg because they did so on multiple fronts,” the website Fivethirtyeight.com wrote. “There were so many threads of questioning that they never quite knit together into a net. And so Zuckerberg, with his close-cropped schoolboy cut and new suit, slipped through Congress’s grasp.”


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