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Zuckerberg to Emphasize Positives, Admit Shortcomings in Congressional Testimony

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to emphasize some of the good things Facebook has contributed to when he appears in front of lawmakers this week, but will also admit shortcomings and reiterate steps that the company is undertaking to prevent future abuse of its tools.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, where Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify Wednesday, released his prepared remarks Monday. In it, he called Facebook an “idealistic and optimistic company.” “For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can bring,” the remarks read.

Some of the positive examples cited by Zuckerberg include the empowerment of social movements like #metoo and the recent gun control demonstrations, as well as donations made in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

“As Facebook has grown, people everywhere have gotten a powerful new tool to stay connected to the people they love, make their voices heard, and build communities and businesses,” the testimony has Zuckerberg saying in an apparent attempt to remind lawmakers that not all is bad about the social network.

However, Zuckerberg is also set to acknowledge that Facebook fell short on a number of fronts. “We didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm,” the testimony reads. “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.”

The testimony rehashes some of the history behind the Cambridge Analytica data leak, detailing how the Trump campaign-linked company was able to get personal data on tens of millions of Americans. Interestingly, it doesn’t include a concrete number of how many users were affected by this. Early reports suggested that Cambridge Analytica could have gotten data on 50 million U.S. Americans, but Facebook itself recently acknowledged that it could have been as many as 87 million.

Zuckerberg is also set to once again talk about the way groups linked to the Russian government used the platform to target U.S. Americans with false news and rally them around partisan issues. Finally, Zuckerberg is going to reiterate some of the steps that the company previously announced, including more transparency for political ads and hiring of additional staffers to review content. “I’ve directed our teams to invest so much in security — on top of the other investments we’re making — that it will significantly impact our profitability going forward,” Zuckerberg will say.

Ultimately, Zuckerberg wants to end on a positive note, and paint Facebook as a company that can be a force for good. “I believe deeply in what we’re doing,” the testimony reads. “And when we address these challenges, I know we’ll look back and view helping people connect and giving more people a voice as a positive force in the world.”

We’ll soon learn whether lawmakers share this positive outlook. In addition to Wednesday’s House Committee testimony, Zuckerberg is set to appear before the Senate on Tuesday as well.

 

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