Looks like Zuckerberg is the one getting zuckered now….
TOWARD THE BEGINNING of Tuesday’s Congressional hearing, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham asked Mark Zuckerberg about competition: “If I buy a Ford, and it doesn’t work well, and I don’t like it, I can buy a Chevy. If I’m upset with Facebook, what’s the equivalent product that I can go sign up for?”
The question appeared to confuse Facebook’s besuited CEO. The average American uses eight different services to keep in touch with people, Zuckerberg countered before Graham stepped in with a cutting follow-up: “You don’t think you have a monopoly?”
“It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me,” Zuckerberg responded.
With this naive perception of Facebook’s place in the world, Zuckerberg hit on the real reason that his testimony has garnered such a sprawling reaction. This week’s hearings were never simply about the Cambridge Analytica leak, or Facebook’s lax reaction to misuse of its users data. Zuckerberg’s testimony is about bigger problems than the transparency of the advertisements that may sway our votes in coming elections, or the security of the information that is housed in the site. Our elected officials are demanding an answer to a more profound question. As Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan asked Zuckerberg a few hours later: “Do you think you’re too powerful?”
Apart from professing to welcome thoughtful regulation, Zuckerberg refuses to entertain an answer. That’s why, even as he scrambles to make it clear that he’s taking the scandal seriously by apologizing, updating features, apologizing, traveling to Washington DC to address Congressional leaders, and apologizing, the rage trained upon him continues to mount. Across the country, people joined watch parties to livestream the Congressional hearings, in which elected leaders grilled the 33 year-old CEO. Someone attended the Tuesday Senate hearing dressed as a Russian troll doll. Saturday Night Live lambasted him. A group of demonstrators stood holding photos of Zuckerberg’s head on long wooden sticks, chanting: “the internet is getting dark and we owe it all to Mark.”
This obsessive critique is uniquely trained on Zuckerberg. The American public, including both Facebook’s advertisers and its users, have come to believe Facebook is a monolith corporation that controls every aspect of a fundamental way that people share and receive information. Judging from the Saturday Night Live skit, or the newspaper headlines, or the 100 life-size Zuckerberg cardboard cutouts outside the hearings that say “Fix Fakebook,” the scandal has provided an opportunity to voice the many reasons people are afraid of Facebook’s power.
These questions have given way to existential concern that Facebook is bad for us–and its…