This week, the biggest tech story was arguably Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before the House Financial Services Committee. In lieu of our typical run down of stories at the intersection of technology and policy, this week we focus on on reactions to Zuckerberg’s testimony.
It wasn’t an easy day for the billionaire social media founder, especially when US Congressman Barry Lankford (R-GA) openly drew comparisons between Zuckerberg and Donald Trump. Here are a few other highlights:
Zuckerberg set out to make the case for his platform’s digital currency, but it had the opposite effect. In fact the controversy drove a quick dive in value for Bitcoin, which saw a price plunge against the dollar. (Reuters) This was driven by the general pessimism about the future of digital currencies amongst lawmakers, as well as Zuckerberg’s queazy answers.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters asked Facebook to can its digital currency project, Libra, and focus in on the structural issues Facebook creates for democracies. (Salon)
Congressman Bill Posey made a bizarre question about Zuckerberg’s beliefs on anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories, betraying himself as a likely anti-vax politician. (VICE)
The most memorable exchange was with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who pushed back on the Facebook policy to accept outright disinformation in the form of advertising to preserve some notion of “free speech.” “So, you won’t take down lies or you will take down lies?,” she asked the billionaire CEO. “I think that’s just a pretty simple yes or no.” Zuckerberg rebuffed her queries in favor of an absolutist notion of free speech. (WSJ)
Ocasio-Cortez also got Zuckerberg on the record on past scandals, including hanging him up on when he first found out about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and his recent discussions with Facebook board member Peter Thiel. (The Guardian)
Bottom line? Facebook is a lightning rod for criticism- yesterday’s testimony did nothing to change that. More on our regular tech + policy beat next week!