I almost feel sorry for Mark Zuckerberg. That’s a phrase I never thought I’d write, although I did carefully qualify it with an almost.
Zuckerberg had the look of a startled gazelle amongst a pack of hyenas as the House Financial Services Committee tore into him. Officially the hearing was titled "An Examination of Facebook and its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors" and his plan for a worldwide cryptocurrency, Libra, was ostensibly the subject of debate, but Congress used the opportunity to hold him to account for his many other sins too.
Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters pulled no punches:
You have opened up a serious discussion about whether Facebook should be broken up.
Each month, 2.7 billion people use your products. That's over a third of the world's population. That's huge.
That's so big that it's clear to me, and to anyone who hears this list, that perhaps you believe you're above the law.
Zuckerberg seemed ill-prepared for the hearing, having not read a lot of the documentation sent to him in advance.
Committee member Joyce Beatty asked him:
Did you review the packet that was sent to you by this committee?
And when he refused to answer, she added:
Obviously, that's a no.
Zuckerberg was accused of having no genuine interest in civil rights, only addressing the subject as a result of the lawsuits he’s received. He didn’t even know which company Facebook employs to take care of its civil rights strategies even though it’s one of the largest civil rights firms in existence.
It was brutal and I did have a certain sympathy for Zuck. What I see when I look at him is a techie, an ideas man who’s interested in the technical evolution of those ideas but not really interested in — or capable of — the troublesome business of running a massive company. He’d probably be better off dropping into a CTO role and then employing someone who can handle things like Congress committees as a CEO. A wise visionary knows what their weaknesses are.
I don’t think he’s the devil but he has made some almighty mistakes, not least the way he has ridden roughshod over people’s privacy. But I think that’s simply because such concerns just don’t create a big enough blip on his radar. It’s careless rather than evil.