After news broke recently that Cambridge Analytica surreptitiously collected Facebook user data to help the Trump campaign, a key individual remained noticeably quiet: Mark Zuckerberg. Now, the Facebook CEO is making a press push and hinting that regulating the social media company won’t be off limits.
“I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated,” Zuckerberg told CNN in an interview that aired on March 21, in his first televised Q&A since the scandal broke. “On the basic side, there are things like ads transparency regulation that I would love to see. If you look at how much regulation there is around advertising in TV and print, it’s just not clear why there should be less on the internet. You should have the same level of transparency required.”
Zuckerberg reiterated these comments in an interview with Wired. Specifically, he referred to the Honest Ads Act, a bill proposed in October 2017 that would require social media companies with more than 50 million monthly users to disclose information about any political advertiser that spends more than $500 pushing ads on their sites.
“Most of the stuff in there, from what I’ve seen, is good,” he told Wired, adding:
“We’re building full ad transparency tools; even though it doesn’t necessarily seem like that specific bill is going to pass, we’re going to go implement most of it anyway. And that’s just because I think it will end up being good for our community and good for the internet if internet services live up to a lot of the same standards, and even go further than TV and traditional media have had to in advertising—that just seems logical.”
The Internet Association, a lobbying group that represents Facebook and other Silicon Valley tech companies, acknowledged the bill’s introduction in October but stopped short of endorsing it completely.
Zuckerberg is not known for being a gifted public speaker, and in his CNN interview he still showed some of his characteristic stodginess. When asked if he thought Facebook affected the results of the 2016 election, he said, “It’s hard for me to have a full assessment of that,” adding that “organic” offline campaigning played a role in the outcome as well. Earlier, he was asked why his company didn’t probe further when Cambridge Analytica sent it a “legal certification” assuring Facebook it wouldn’t make use of the data it extracted. Zuckerberg replied, “I don’t know about you, but I’m used to when people legally certify that they’re gonna do something, that they do it. But I think that this was clearly a mistake in retrospect.”
Yet Zuckerberg did attempt to reach viewers emotionally. While he did not apologize for the scandal in his first public statement on the matter, released ahead of the interview, he told CNN, “This was a major breach of trust, and I’m really sorry that this happened.” At the end of the interview, when asked about how becoming a father affected how he runs the company, he said, beginning to tear up, “I used to think that the most important thing to me by far was my having the greatest possible impact across the world that I can. Now, I really just care about building something my girls are gonna grow up and be proud of me for.”
Hanna Kozlowska contributed to this piece.