After watching the Facebook founder and CEO’s 48-hour trip to Capitol Hill, there are two possible conclusions: either Mark Zuckerberg deliberately misled Congress, or Mark Zuckerberg knows very little about his own company. Both are bad.

Again and again, before both Senate and House committees, Zuckerberg pleaded ignorance about the company he created and has controlled for 14 years. Zuckerberg wasn’t dodging questions about obscure corners of the company or corporate minutiae, but the most plainly fundamental aspects of Facebook’s business and privacy policies. Rather than the congressional beatdown many had expected, the most striking aspect of Zuckerberg’s testimony wasn’t his painful apologias or excuse-spinning, but his ability to spend nearly 10 hours saying almost nothing. The hearings may prove to be a sea change moment for Facebook and the greater data-mining industrial complex, but it would be hard to say the public learned much of anything.

When Sen. Kamala Harris asked Zuckerberg, on the subject of Cambridge Analytica, whether the company had any conversations about whether to inform the 87 million users affected, the CEO replied, “I don’t know if there were any conversations at Facebook overall because I wasn’t in a lot of them,” and finally “I don’t remember a conversation like that.”

When asked by Sen. Maria Cantwell whether Facebook employees had helped with Cambridge Analytica’s work: “Senator, I don’t know.”

When asked about the role of Palantir, a data-mining defense contractor co-founded by Facebook board member and early Zuckerberg ally Peter Thiel: “I’m not really that familiar with what Palantir does.”

Zuckerberg acted similarly confused when asked whether Facebook does things it openly says it does on its own website. When Sen. Roger Wicker asked Zuckerberg if he could confirm whether “Facebook can track a user’s internet browsing activity, even after that user has logged off of the Facebook platform,” the CEO replied, “Senator — I — I want to make sure I get this accurate, so it would probably be better to have my team follow up afterwards.”

The answer is categorically, unequivocally yes, according to “If you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account and visit a website with the Like button or another social plugin, your browser sends us a more limited set of info.”

When Sen. Roy Blunt asked Zuckerberg whether Facebook tracks users across devices (say, from their iPhone to their iPad), he replied that he was “not sure of the answer to that question.”

Meanwhile, on

On 13 separate occasions on his first day of testimony, Zuckerberg told senators that he would have his “team” eventually “follow up” with an answer.

Zuckerberg’s evasiveness, to put it politely, continued well into the House hearing, including examples that less generous observers might call “lies”:


Mark Zuckerberg seems to have either lied to Congress or not have very much beyond a Wikipedia level of familiarity with his own company.

It’s not out of the question that Zuckerberg really doesn’t know much about Facebook. In recent years, he’s been more visible on his strange Silicon Valley-meets-America goodwill tour, posing for photos in diners and atop tractors, than weighing in on actual Facebook matters. It’s also worth remembering that COO Sheryl Sandberg is only the most recent (and prominent) “adult” brought into Facebook to govern where Zuckerberg is unable or unwilling; Antonio García Martí­nez, who worked at Facebook for two years as a product manager helping the company pioneer new ad targeting methods, claimed in an interview  that Zuckerberg “outsources much of the CEO job to Sheryl,” and could actually be as ignorant as he appeared on the Hill. (Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)……..