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Mark Zuckerberg arrives in the capital

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After an intensive crash course in testifying before Congress, Mark Zuckerberg (and squad) have lande
 
April 9 · Issue #115 · View online
The Interface
After an intensive crash course in testifying before Congress, Mark Zuckerberg (and squad) have landed in Washington, DC — and he came bearing gifts. These go beyond the many announcements Facebook has made in the run-up to this week’s hearings, which the Journal ably recapped here.
For Congress, Zuckerberg offered a round of private meetings with lawmakers to establish a rapport before they grill him tomorrow. Reuters:
On Monday, he was pictured in one photo showing his mobile device to Senator Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee. He did not respond to questions from reporters as he entered and left the building.
Nelson told reporters after the meeting: “The message I wanted to convey to him is that if we don’t rein in the use of social media, none of us are going to have any privacy anymore.”
He met Senator John Thune, the Commerce Committee’s Republican chairman, later in the day. He also met Chuck Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Republican chairman, and the leading Democrat on that committee, Dianne Feinstein.
For Hill staffers, he shared his testimony (PDF link).
The seven-page statement starts with an apology from Zuckerberg, who says Facebook failed to take a broad enough view of its responsibilities. “That was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” he says. “I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
And for the democracy, he took a somewhat counterintuitive step: creating a partnership with independent third parties to conduct research studies about how social networks affect elections. The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer talked to Zuckerberg about it:
Both the committee of academics and their research grants will be funded by a group of independent foundations, including the Hewlett Foundation, the Omidyar Network, and the Charles Koch Foundation. Unlike current studies about Facebook, which are conducted in conjunction with the company’s product team, Facebook will not be able to review these academic papers before they are published.
Zuckerberg sounded relieved about that effort, in part because it will create a source of information about the company that does not itself come from the company. “In terms of just understanding the amount of problematic content on the platform, I think we need to be more transparent [so] that we can ground some of those debates in fact,” he said.
“I think a lot of the discourse that I see around fake news, for example, is grounded in anecdotes, right? Someone saw something and then they write about it. Which is fair because that’s all the information that’s out there today … but I think we want to try to move beyond that,” he said.
I call it a counterintuitive step because it comes at a time when Facebook is under pressure to share less, not more, with outside groups. The only reason these hearings are happening is that Facebook let profile data from as many as 87 million people slip out of its hands and into Cambridge Analytica’s. The big story of last week was how Facebook had acted to restrict future developers from ever being able to do the same. And so it’s remarkable that Facebook chose this moment to say it would open up — to a handful of outsiders.
We’ll have to see what that research yields before we can fairly assess it. But it strikes me, on balance, as a positive step. If we’re ever to fully comprehend the effects of social media on democracy, researchers need more visibility into the platforms than they have today.
 By the end of the day, there were reports that Zuckerberg’s charm offensive was having its desired effect. “He’s a very nice young man,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said. Said Sen. John Kennedy, who elsewhere in today’s newsletter speaks supportively of regulations: “I come in peace. I’m not interested in regulating Facebook to death.”
Of course, senators’ efforts toward peacemaking have been known to evaporate when the TV lights turn on. And Axios has a good look at the likely thorns in Facebook’s side tomorrow. I still expect Zuckerberg will get a grilling. On Twitter, journalist Pierre Asselin had a nice encapsulation of what we can expect in response:
1- Express remorse, apologize
2- Emphasize it happened in the past
3- Underline some changes you have already made
4- Hint about more changes to come
5- Frame your mission in emotional terms, associate it to values
Repeat as often as required.
It all begins at 2:15PM ET Tuesday, and I invite you to join the liveblog I’m writing with my colleague Colin Lecher at The Verge. I’ll tweet the link as soon as it goes live tomorrow morning.

Democracy
As Zuckerberg heads to Capitol Hill, a call to replace him as Facebook’s chairman
Facebook starts notifying millions of users that their data was ‘improperly obtained’
Facebook could face record fine, say former FTC officials
Republican senator says Facebook scandals may be 'too big' for company to fix alone
(How) Will Facebook Self-Regulate “Issue Ads” Intended to Affect U.S. Elections? The Details Matter a Lot
The biggest Black Lives Matter page on Facebook is fake
“We Had To Stop Facebook”: When Anti-Muslim Violence Goes Viral
Criticized for Ignoring Violence in Myanmar, Zuckerberg Steps In
Groups Allege YouTube Is Violating Law That Protects Kids
Twitter Bots: An Analysis of Automated Accounts and the Links They Share
Twitter isn't the voice of the people, and media shouldn't pretend it is
How Trump thrives in ‘news deserts’
Life Inside China’s Social Credit Laboratory
"Don’t Mess With Our Elections": Vigilante Hackers Strike Russia, Iran
Elsewhere
For Facebook’s Employees, Crisis Is No Big Deal
CubeYou Cambridge-like app collected data on millions from Facebook
Facebook suspends Canadian tech firm AggregateIQ over data scandal
Facebook’s Other Critics: Its Viral Stars
Teens Also Sometimes Quit Social Media
YouTube Kids Is Going To Release A Whitelisted, Non-Algorithmic Version Of Its App
The Instagram Moodboard Community Is Having a Breakdown Over Polyvore Closing Down
The Rock is hosting a $300,000 game of HQ on Wednesday
Launches
Snapchat brings back chronological Stories feed for some
HQ now lets you see which friends are actually your competitors
Takes
Why Mark Zuckerberg’s 14-Year Apology Tour Hasn’t Fixed Facebook
Facebook Messenger's 'Unsend' Feature Is What Happens When You Scramble
On Facebook, Zuckerberg gets privacy and you get nothing
The Medium Model
And finally ...
Weekend Update: Mark Zuckerberg on Cambridge Analytica - SNL - YouTube
I try to end each day’s newsletter with something that made me laugh, in the hopes that you might too. Sadly, Saturday Night Live’s take on the Cambridge Analytica scandal isn’t really funny at all — Alex Moffatt’s take on Mark Zuckerberg gets just about everything wrong, down to the color of his shirt. But it’s worth watching anyway, because few things threaten to negatively define a company in the public imagination as much as sustained mainstream ridicule. Moffatt’s Zuckerberg — an unblinking automaton who delights in the misuse of your data — bears almost no relation to the real thing. But to Facebook’s chagrin, this is the version of him now taking shape in the public imagination. 
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Congressional testimony? casey@theverge.com
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