News World Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg emerges unscathed, richer from grilling

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg emerges unscathed, richer from grilling

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
MR Zuckerberg surprised many with his performance in front of Congress over two days. Photo: Getty
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Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has fielded 10 hours of questions over two days from nearly 100 US lawmakers and emerged largely unscathed and considerably richer.

He parried questions of how much control people have over their data on the world’s largest social media network without a major gaffe, while avoiding being cornered into supporting new government regulation.

The hearings that ended on Wednesday revealed no consensus among US lawmakers about what kind of privacy legislation they might want to pursue, if any, and no timeline for action.

As he did on Tuesday before a Senate hearing, Zuckerberg refused during a House of Representatives committee hearing to make any promises to support new legislation or change how the social network does business.

“It is inevitable that there will need to be some regulation” of internet firms, Zuckerberg said, but he avoided any specifics.

Although Zuckerberg, 33, had never testified at a congressional hearing before, he succeeded in deflecting questions like a Washington veteran.

Forty times the internet mogul told lawmakers he had no answers at hand and would get back to them later. About one in three lawmakers got that response over the two days.

Over the two days, the value of Zuckerberg’s stake in the company grew about $US3 billion ($3.8 billion) thanks to the lift his performance gave to the companies shares.

Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell expressed frustration with Zuckerberg’s frequent promises to get back to lawmakers later in writing.

“Some things are striking during this conversation,” she said. “As CEO, you didn’t know some key facts.”

On one point, Zuckerberg undercut his consistent message that Facebook users have control of their data.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Mr Zuckerberg seemed at home at the hearing. Photo: Getty

He said he was among the nearly 87 million people whose personal information was improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. He gave no further details.

His admission that even the company’s tech-savvy founder was unable to protect his own data underscored the problem Facebook has in persuading skeptical lawmakers that users can easily safeguard their own information and that further legislation governing Facebook is unnecessary.

The Cambridge Analytica issue was the reason Zuckerberg was on Capitol Hill, answering questions about how that company – which has counted US President Donald Trump’s election campaign among its clients – got hold of data about Facebook users.

Zuckerberg said it would take “many months” to complete an audit of other apps that might also have improperly gathered or shared users’ data.

“I do imagine that we will find some apps that were either doing something suspicious or misusing people’s data,” he said.

Wearing a dark suit and tie and politely prefacing almost every remark with “Congressman” or “Congresswoman,” Zuckerberg appeared even more controlled than he did on Tuesday when he testified before senators. He refrained from cracking jokes and flashed few smiles.

The performance had favourable results. Facebook shares closed up 0.78 per cent on Wednesday after rising 4.5 per cent Tuesday.