Throughout the hearings, Zuckerberg repeatedly emphasized that he isn't against the idea of Facebook being regulated, and pledged to work with policymakers on proposed rules. He also highlighted his support for digital-advertising regulations like the Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan bill that proposes online advertising be regulated the same way print, radio and television ads are.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), meanwhile, asked Zuckerberg if he thought Facebook had a monopoly, pointing to the acquisition of social-media app Instagram in 2012. "It certainly doesn't feel like that to me," Zuckerberg said. "It is a good business decision," added Graham. "My point is that one way to regulate a company is through competition, through government regulation. Here's the question that all of us got to answer: What do we tell our constituents, given what's happened here, why we should let you self-regulate?"
Zuckerberg replied by saying that his position is not that there should be no regulation. "The real question, as the internet becomes more important in people's lives, is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be or not." Graham then encouraged Zuckerberg to submit proposals to Congress, adding that "one way to regulate a company is through competition, through government regulation." But the truth is that, with more than 2 billion monthly on Facebook alone (not counting Instagram), the company really doesn't have much competition in the space. Twitter, in comparison, has 330 million monthly active users.
Senators and representatives also asked Zuckerberg if he would be open to the idea of implementing something similar to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect May 25th and aims to focus on data consent and strengthen protection for individuals' private information on the web. Under these new rules, sites like Facebook will be held accountable for how they handle personal data from their users and would be compelled to respond when people request a report of the information a company has on them. It will also require that organizations be clear about what they're doing with their users' data, whether it's ad targeting or user research.
If Facebook were to implement something similar to GDPR in the US, and around the world, that has the potential to solve a lot of the company's problems. Still, one of the main concerns for various lawmakers is that Facebook isn't transparent enough with its users, particularly when it comes to what it does with their personal data -- even if they consensually give it to the company. "Your user agreement sucks," Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) told Zuckerberg on Tuesday, in one of the hearing's more memorable moments.
"The purpose of a user agreement is to cover Facebook's rear end, not inform users of their rights."
"The purpose of a user agreement is to cover Facebook's rear end, not inform users of their rights." Kennedy added, "I'm going to suggest to you that you go back home and rewrite it. And tell your $1,200-an-hour lawyers -- no disrespect, they're good -- you want it written in English, so the average American can understand it." This is something Facebook has already started to fix.