Zuckerberg facing Capitol Hill ‘ambush’ over Facebook woes

The hearings will be "horrific ... like Custer's last stand" one analyst predicted.

The Facebook logo is seen displayed on a laptop monitor in this photo illustration on March 6, 2018. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Facebook logo is seen displayed on a laptop monitor in this photo illustration on March 6, 2018. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg’s carefully-managed media persona faces its ultimate test on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, when he’s scheduled to testify before lawmakers in wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The normally media shy Facebook mogul has undertaken an apology tour in recent weeks, speaking to CNN, the New York Times, Vox and others since it emerged that data firm Cambridge Analytica harvested information of Facebook to help the Trump campaign microtarget voters during the 2016 presidential election.

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Zuckerberg previously said that he was “happy” to testify before Congress, however the scandal continues to grow. Earlier this week, Facebook dramatically revised up the number of users affected by the scandal, from 50 million to 87 million.

All this means that lawmakers this week are unlikely to give Zuckerberg an easy ride when he testifies before the Senate Judiciary and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committees on Tuesday and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

“I think that if he had gone immediately [after the scandal broke] up to Congress it would have been bad, now I think it’s gonna be horrific,” veteran political analyst Charlie Cook told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. “This poor guy’s gonna be walking into an ambush…It’s gonna be like Custer’s last stand.”

“Zuckerberg will get roasted,” the National Review’s Editor Rich Lowry added. “The issue is that Facebook has a tremendous amount of data and there’s one man who makes the decision about how it’s used and that’s Mark Zuckerberg and I think that regime, one way or another, is ending.”

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Lawmakers have been irate at Facebook over their inaction on Russian interference for months now. At the tech hearings last November, politicians berated Google, Facebook and Twitter for their lack of transparency and half-hearted attempts to explain how Russia was able to buy 3,000 divisive ads on their platforms which were later seen by more than 120 million people.

“This is a very big deal. I went home last night with profound disappointment,” Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said at the time. “I asked specific questions, I got vague answers. And that just won’t do. You have a huge problem on your hands.”

On CBS’ Face the Nation Sen. John Kennedy (D-MA), echoed Feinstein’s remarks.  “We can do it the easy way or the hard way,” he said. “I do not want to regulate Facebook half to death but we do have two major problems we’ve discovered. One is the privacy issue and the other is the propagandist issue. Now Facebook needs to talk with us frankly about how we can fix that and if it doesn’t know how to fix it, which is my biggest worry, it needs to be be very frank in that regard too.”