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Facebook CEO Wins Would-Be Congressional Grilling

Facebook CEO Wins Would-Be Congressional GrillingFacebook CEO Wins Would-Be Congressional Grilling

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg remained calm under pressure during five hours of questioning by US senators about a series of recent crises culminating with the latest involving Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that gained access to data about up to 87 million Facebook users.

Overall, Zuckerberg appeared to win the day by avoiding any major stumbles and appearing open to the idea of limited privacy regulation. For their part, the senators were generally gentler with Zuckerberg than expected during the hearing, which risked being a dramatic grilling broadcast live to millions of people at home, Fortune reported.

Zuckerberg, wearing a suit and tie instead of his signature grey T-shirt, and looking somber throughout, responded to lawmakers without becoming flustered. He readily apologized for the privacy dust up, saying “It was my mistake. I’m sorry,” and that Facebook had failed to take a “broad enough view” of the possible misuse of its service and developer tools by bad actors.

Much of what Zuckerberg reiterated was what he and his lieutenants have been explaining for the past couple weeks of intense criticism and a falling stock price. But saying it on a national stage, under scrutiny of lawmakers, raised the stakes for the CEO, who had never previously given testimony in congress.

When Zuckerberg did not know the answer—and that was often—he told senators that his staff would provide more details later. It had the effect of diffusing some more detailed questions that could have opened Facebook to further scrutiny.

Several times during Tuesday’s hearing, Zuckerberg explained that an academic, Aleksandr Kogan, had misled Facebook about his true intentions in creating a personality quiz app on the social network that harvested user data. Kogan then sold that data to Cambridge Analytica, in violation of Facebook policies.

During the hearing, Zuckerberg directed blame away from Facebook to Cambridge Analytica, saying that his employees had been duped. Indeed, several senators questioning Zuckerberg seemed to take his side and expressed more anger at Cambridge Analytica than Facebook, which had such lax data sharing policies.

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