4 Strategic Hearing Questions for Facebook CEO Zuckerberg


If Congress wants to better understand how Facebook is at the center of so many privacy, data security, and consumer protection problems, Senators and Representatives have a rare opportunity to ask Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg the four strategic questions below, when he testifies before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday.


All four are designed to help Congress understand: “How could this happen? And keep happening?


1.      Root cause of the problem? Has Facebook “underinvested” in user safety and security, and serially breached Facebook users’ privacy trust, because there is no real legal risk or deterrent for doing so, because Congress specially exempted and immunized Internet platforms from normal governmental accountability and consumer protection responsibilities, in Section 230 of the 1996 Telecom Act?


2.      Oversight adequacy? If the 2011 FTC-Facebook privacy consent decree required three FTC biennial privacy audits of Facebook since 2011, and those three FTC privacy audits did not discover the serious privacy problems that are the subject of this hearing, was this system breakdown the fault of the FTC-Facebook consent decree, the FTC’s oversight, or Facebook?


3.      Deceptive intent? A few months ago, Facebook’s founding President, Sean Parker publicly admitted that you and he and other app developers consciously designed your apps to be addictive and manipulative i.e. purposefully “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology,” and he worried aloud: “God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains.” Since Facebook did not disclose this, did Facebook engage in consumer deception by design, and if so, why would this not be another FTC deceptive and unfair business practice?


4.      Why no competition or antitrust? Why did Facebook quietly stop competing directly with Google in search in 2014 just months after Google abruptly stopped competing directly with Facebook in social networking, in defunding Google+ and closing Orkut, when you told your employees Google+ was an “existential threat” to Facebook and “a zero-sum contest” when Google+ launched in 2011, and when Google blogged in late 2012 that: “Today Google+ is the fastest growing network thingy ever. More than 500 million people have upgraded, 235 million are active across Google.”  





Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an internetization consultancy specializing in how the Internet affects competition, markets, the economy, and policy, for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Internet platform competitors. He is also Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. Cleland has testified seven times before the Senate and House Antitrust Subcommittees on antitrust matters. Overall, eight different congressional subcommittees have sought his expert testimony a total of sixteen times. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.”