One Question Illustrates Why Congress Can't Fix Facebook

Lawmakers just don't seem to understand how the company works
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2018 8:33 AM CDT
One Question Illustrates Why Congress Can't Fix Facebook
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, left, is greeted by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, before returning to his seat to continue testifying on Capitol Hill Tuesday, April 10, 2018.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Now that Mark Zuckerberg has finished two days of testimony on Capitol Hill, one clear theme is emerging in coverage after the fact: Members of Congress, particularly senators in their 70s and 80s, seem to lack a fundamental understanding of how the company works. That should "give everyone serious pause if they think that federal legislation is going to solve the serious and growing issues of technology run amok," writes Margaret Sullivan in the Washington Post. "Legislators don’t seem to understand it well enough to even ask the right questions, much less fix the problem." Sullivan and Shara Tibken of CNET both point to one question in particular by 84-year-old Sen. Orrin Hatch as a prime example.

"If [a version of Facebook will always be free], how do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?" asked Hatch. It took Zuckerberg only four words to explain this basic tenet of Facebook's business plan: "Senator, we run ads." Tibken notes that Zuckerberg and staffers behind him grinned at the response. Other lawmakers seemed similarly flummoxed by other aspects of not just Facebook but tech in general. At Futurism, Victor Tangermann writes that it's clear that "many Congressmen and Congresswomen have some studying to do," and he suggests that voters start keeping this mind. "We need to value digital literacy in the people we elect," he concludes. "That is, if we don’t want to have another Cambridge Analytica on our hands." (More Facebook stories.)

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