Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told senators on Tuesday one of his “greatest regrets” is the company’s inability to stop Russian propaganda during the 2016 U.S. election.
“One of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016,” Zuckerberg said in response to a question from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). “We expected them to do a number of more traditional cyberattacks — which we did identify and notified the campaigns that they were trying to hack into them — but we were slow in identifying the type of new information operations.”
Facebook has been accused of failing to weed out Kremlin-funded trolls pushing misleading ads. The ads hit more than 100 million Americans, the company has since disclosed.
Zuckerberg added it’s one of his “top priorities” to curtail this issue ahead of the 2018 election. When asked by Feinstein what Facebook was doing to prevent Russian trolls from interfering, Zuckerberg said the company was using artificial intelligence, human moderators, and had kicked off “tens of thousands” of bad actors. The company is now in an “arms race” with Russia, Zuckerberg said, and that it it’s moderator team would beef up to 20,000 workers by the end of the year.
Zuckerberg was brought before a joint hearing between the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to primarily address Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data leak — where 87 million users had their information unknowingly accessed in 2014.
During his opening remarks, Zuckerberg stressed the company’s “idealistic and optimistic” ethos, geared towards connecting people. But the Facebook CEO said the company had fallen short of protecting its users in pursuit of this goal — and took personal responsibility for it.
“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy,” said Zuckerberg. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
Many of the Congress members expressed admiration for Zuckerberg’s stewardship of the tech giant, while also calling on the company to better protect its massive user base.
“Mr. Zuckerberg, in many ways you and the company that you created — the story you created — represent the American dream,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD). “Many are incredibly inspired by what you’ve done. At the same time, you have an obligation. It’s up to you that that dream doesn’t become a privacy nightmare for the scores of people who use Facebook.”
Zuckerberg is also set to address the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday. Ahead of his back-to-back days of testimony, Congress released Zuckerberg’s written statement on Monday — which the 33-year-old exec opened with on Tuesday. Zuckerberg said he is “responsible” for problems involving “fake news,” as well as the Cambridge Analytica data leak.
You can watch Tuesday’s hearing here.