On Tuesday and Wednesday, Zuckerberg gave testimony to Congress in response to his company's role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Russian election interference and his website's utter nightmare of data privacy. He impressed people by wearing his absolute nicest human suit.
Mr. Zuckerberg's 10 hours of dodging lawmakers' questions in the proverbial hot seat evoked the internet's best memes about aliens who fool humanity into becoming food. The Cirque du Dystopia atmosphere was enhanced by Zuckerberg's actual seat, which was fitted with a booster cushion to make him appear taller. His wee seat certainly distracted press from the truly freaky attempts at misdirection flowing from his face hole.
Much virtual ink was spilled fussing over the 33-year-old boy billionaire wearing a suit like a grown-up man to talk to the adults. Wow! They grow up so fast on those diets of purloined data! But yes: He sat on a booster seat, which may have actually been a wireless charging station. And while Zuckerberg let slip little things like his belief that Facebook is basically above the law, far too many write-ups goggled at his silly big-boy chair.
It's a carefully cultivated image. An indulgence granted to a certain kind of white startup jock who gets endless chances to drunk-drive democracy and human rights as if he's a freshman intern just learning the ropes of ethics, trust and professionalism. An image Zuckerberg himself perpetuated throughout the hearing by mentioning Facebook's college dorm room creation myth on a loop. (See also: "Mark Zuckerberg Cited For Contempt of Congress After Refusing to Shut The Fuck Up About How He Started Company in Dorm Room.")
Getting a good, long look at him unsettled much of the general population. Much ado was made of his thousand-yard stare and robotic enjoyment of human water. Star Trek: The Next Generation fans were rankled by his uncanny resemblance to Data. But any real story lay in Zuckerberg's responses, which infuriated the bipartisan assembly with clumsy, repetitive avoidance tactics and bizarre, often fact-challenged admissions.
When not clamming up like a busted murder suspect when lawmakers mentioned Palantir, that is.
Let's just say that fact-checking in the aftermath is not looking good. Zuckerberg said he'd never heard of Facebook's "shadow profiles," causing The Guardian to get whiplash from their double-take. He claimed that everyone consents to giving Facebook their data, despite also saying that Facebook tracks nonusers for reasons of "security" ... and commercial purposes. That's like consent, right?
Anyway. He practically did a "look, shiny!" when asked about Facebook's tracking of logged-off users. His answer was politely described as "vague" in press — even though Facebook has been caught doing exactly this, and repeatedly, and its continual activity doing so was ruled illegal. Hey: Keeping up with headlines about your own company, one that you lovingly started in your dorm room because you really care about human connection, is hard when you're a genius. And when asked about collecting transaction data? Nah, he said he didn't think it did that, nope. But maybe Mark should've checked out Facebook's website before his big day. The Guardian did, and Facebook says it does exactly that on its website.
He almost broke the brains of fact-checkers at The New York Times, too. Mr. Zuckerberg told lawmakers that his company first learned of Russia's Facebook influence operations "right around the time of the 2016 election itself." Prior to this week, that answer was 2017. When he told lawmakers that "we made changes in 2014 that would have prevented what happened with Cambridge Analytica from happening today," NYT was like, yeah ... not so much. The paper flat-out said Zuckerberg's statement "Cambridge Analytica wasn't using our services in 2015 as far as we can tell" is false.
And pretty much everyone on the planet laughed when he said: "You're not allowed to have a fake account on Facebook."