by Betty Arenson
Merriam-Webster defines the word “grandstand” as: “to play or act so as to impress onlookers.” With that, on Tuesday of this week committees with participants from the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate questioned Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg concerning the revelations of the total lack of consumer privacy.
Among the questioners were members of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Surely no one believes there will be any authentic, proper fundamental changes in FB’s operations after this show is completed.
FB has a PAC. In 2017 its employees received a statement about “political engagement” and the importance to “develop relationships with elected officials … who share our vision of an open Internet.” Further, decisions about the choice of candidates to support are determined by their positions’ compatibility with FB “and whether the candidate holds a key committee or leadership position.”
The list of the involved people/committees comprising the questioning in this hearing is too long to list here, but we’ll touch on a few of the players.
USA Today reported the numbers of FB-related contributions as published by the Center for Responsive Politics.
- $7 million (believed to be for the 2016 elections) overall Democrats received 65 percent and Republicans, 33 percent. In the House, Republicans got “roughly twice as much as Democrats.”
- This year, 49 of the 55 members of the Energy and Commerce Committee received FB contributions over the last 10 years, with Democrats averaging $6,750 each and Republicans at $6,800.
- Democrat Nancy Pelosi (not on the committee) was the winner of the most FB money since 2007 at $55,150.
- Additionally FB lobbied Congress in 2017, costing $11.5 million, with a total of $52 million since 2009.
- Republican Ted Cruz got $15,000 in 2013, nothing since.
- Texas Democrat O’Rourke received nearly $13,000 last election cycle.
- Per Roll Call, two “questioners,” Massachusetts Rep. Joseph Kennedy and Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader, own “at least $80,000”and “at least $15,000” in FB stock, respectively.
- Nearly 30 members of Congress own FB stock.
Democrat C.J. Young, spokesman for the House Democrats Committee, refused to discuss contributions. He said, “…but the premise that Facebook is getting softballs from the committee isn’t grounded in the facts.”
Facebook may have started as a social media tool, but it clearly is very much a major political actor. FB has a presence in 190 countries, and even though Zuckerberg is one of the richest men in the world, he just can’t help himself; our privacy be damned. I’ve watched much of the testimony of the first day and Zuckerberg doesn’t know how to answer “yes” or “no.” The doe-eyed look on Zuckerberg’s face throughout this exposure is unconvincing. He’s “sorry,” he “accepts responsibility” and acts like this is all such a big surprise. Yes, the man who built Facebook is surprised. I wonder if 87 million people (that we know of) who have had their privacy passed on and is stored by God only knows who, are surprised.