In advance of Wednesday’s much-anticipated Senate hearing, Congress has released Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s planned remarks to members of Congress.
The comments were broken into two sections: How Facebook came to be in the position it’s in today, and what Facebook is proposing to do going forward to fix its issues.
Describing the social media company as “idealistic” and “optimistic,” Zuckerberg seems to plan to remind legislators of all the good things Facebook has contributed to the world simply by connecting people.
But after that brief lauding of the nice side of Facebook, Zuckerberg will acknowledge and take responsibility for the various parts of the platform that have come under sharp criticism over the last year.
“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it and I’m responsible for what happens here,” Zuckerberg’s comments read, according to CNBC. He goes on to note that he has not only a responsibility for the network Facebook provides, but also for how advertisers and developers are making use of that network.
“It will take some time to work through all of the changes we need to make, but I’m committed to getting it right,” the CEO’s remarks state.
As for the more specific issues that have been unfolding over the last few weeks relating to data science firm Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg was a bit more defensive. He states that while the old Facebook policy had allowed a personality testing app to gain access to tens of millions of profiles when it first launched in 2013, policy changes as of 2015 made that impossible unless a user’s friends also consented to allowing the app to see their data. When the company learned data from the app had been sold to Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg maintains the personality test and its developer were removed from the platform, and that Cambridge Analytica agreed to delete some of the data.
“Last month, we learned from The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data as they had certified. We immediately banned them from using any of our services. Cambridge Analytica claims they have already deleted the data and has agreed to a forensic audit by a firm we hired to investigate this. We’re also working with the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office, which has jurisdiction over Cambridge Analytica, as it completes its investigation into what happened.”
So, what happens now?
It seems some changes are coming to how and when developers are given data on the site.
According to Zuckerberg’s remarks, Facebook will be limiting the data it displays to only a customer’s name, profile photo and email address.
“That’s a lot less than apps can get on any other major app platform,” Zuckerberg’s remarks read, before also noting that developer access to customer data will be restricted if a customer stops using the app for more than three months.
The stricter rules will also require developers to not only get approval to run their apps on the Facebook platform, but also, going forward, they will need to sign a contract imposing requirements for any app that will ask for access to posts or other private data.
“We’re restricting more APIs like groups and events. You should be able to sign into apps and share your public information easily, but anything that might also share other people’s information — like other posts in groups you’re in or other people going to events you’re going to — will be much more restricted,” Zuckerberg’s comments state.
Facebook will also make it easier for users to see what apps have allowed access to their data, as well as an easy way to revoke permissions if they no longer want an app to have it. This, he notes, is already doable in Facebook’s privacy settings. Going forward, however, these settings will be at the top of the News Feed and much easier to access. He also affirms Facebook alerted any user whose data may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica.
Zuckerberg will also speak to accusations that Facebook was critical to Russian plans to “hack” the U.S. election, noting the firm is “working hard to get better.”
According to Zuckerberg’s remarks, Facebook’s best estimate is that “approximately 126 million people may have been served content from a Facebook Page” associated with a Russian troll group.
“There’s no question that we should have spotted Russian interference earlier, and we’re working hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” his comments read.
To that end, Zuckerberg notes Facebook has improved its technology to spot “fake news,” deleted tens of thousands of fake accounts and has worked directly with elected officials on shared threats to information dissemination.
“In the U.S. Senate Alabama special election last year, we deployed new AI tools that proactively detected and removed fake accounts from Macedonia trying to spread misinformation,” Zuckerberg remarks say, adding that Facebook has “significantly [increased its] investment in security. We now have about 15,000 people working on security and content review. We’ll have more than 20,000 by the end of this year.”
Although Zuckerberg did apologize — several times — throughout the remarks, he says that Facebook, in his opinion, remains a “positive force in the world.”
“I started Facebook when I was in college. We’ve come a long way since then. We now serve more than 2 billion people around the world, and every day, people use our services to stay connected with the people that matter to them most. I believe deeply in what we’re doing,” the CEO says.
We’ll update you throughout if Congress agrees deeply in what he’s doing as well.