Mark Zuckerberg holds his cards close in opening statement to Congress

In his statement to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Facebook CEO takes full responsibility for recent security and privacy controversies, but he shared little new information.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

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In his opening statement to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg takes full responsibility for recent security and privacy controversies.

"We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake," Zuckerberg's statement says. "It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here."

Zuckerberg will face the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. On Tuesday, he's testifying in a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees.

His appearance in Washington follows several weeks of revelations about how user data has been abused by third parties such as the shady data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, and how malicious actors, like Russian-connected groups, such as the Internet Research Agency, have used it to interfere in elections.

Specifically, Zuckerberg acknowledges the Facebook platform's problems with "fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy."

His opening statement ran through the several steps Facebook is taking to counter election interference on the platform, and to improve user security and privacy. Facebook announced these measures over the past several weeks. For instance, the company last week noted that it was disabling a feature that let users look up other people by their phone number or email address. The feature, Facebook said at the time, was being abused by malicious actors who used it to scrape public profile information.

Zuckerberg's testimony clarifies that the company only found out that this feature was being abused two weeks ago. "When we found out about the abuse, we shut this feature down," his statement says.

Aside from the detail about the timing of that revelation, Zuckerberg's statement largely repeats the apologies and commitments for improvement that the CEO has made before. One controversy the letter does not mention is the way Facebook has been used in Myanmar to propagate hate speech and incite violence against Rohingya Muslims, a group facing an ethnic cleansing campaign.

It will be up to lawmakers to draw out further details about abuse of the Facebook platform and the company's actions.

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