FB Gets Thumbs Down on Apology Tour…
As you may have heard, Facebook’s embattled CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a surprise visit to Capitol Hill on Monday, just one day before his scheduled back-to-back congressional testimony over the social media giant’s pending privacy scandal.
The goal of Zuck’s mission impossible was twofold. First, woo leading lawmakers of the powerful committees for which he’s testifying this week, in the hopes that members of Congress will go easy on him.
And, second, try to turn down the volume on three consecutive weeks of negative news coverage over the harvesting of Facebook users’ personal data by Cambridge Analytica and related privacy issues.
This latest user data controversy has badly damaged Facebook’s brand image, causing stock prices to plummet, demoralizing the workforce, shaking public trust, and leading some longtime loyal users to flee the once promising social media platform.
Zuckerberg’s apology tour is nothing more than a desperate measure at saving face for himself and the mega social media company he founded.
Too Little, Too Late
As someone who once worked in Congress for a former House Majority Leader, I find it highly unlikely that Zuck’s mea culpa will matter much to the congressional committees.
In fact, the last thing Congress wants to hear is another apology tour from Zuckerberg. He sounds like a broken record already.
After hiding from congressional committees for over a decade, it’s doubtful that lawmakers will cut any slack to the boy wonder of Silicon Valley.
Rather, Zuck should expect a barrage of probing and embarrassing questions about why this latest user data breach occurred, why Facebook said nothing about it for two-years, and what FB is doing now to remedy pending privacy problems and protect users’ personal information.
Unfortunately, Zuck’s 11th hour efforts to score “brownie points” with Congress are simply too little, too late after trampling on transparency over and over again with Facebook users, the media and the general public.
The information and images below were prepared by The Washington Post recapping Zuckerberg’s 14-year apology tour…
“14 years of Mark Zuckerberg saying sorry, not sorry”
- “Do you trust Mark Zuckerberg? From the moment the Facebook founder entered the public eye in 2003 for creating a Harvard student hot-or-not rating site, he’s been apologizing.” — Washington Post (WP)
After creating Facemash, a Harvard hot-or-not site. — WP
- “ This is not how I meant for things to go and I apologize for any harm done as a result of my neglect. ”
After introducing News Feed, which exposed updates to friends in one central place. — WP
After launching Beacon, which opted-in everyone to sharing with advertisers what they were doing in outside websites and apps. — WP
- “ We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it. … People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share. ”
After unveiling new terms of service that angered users. — WP
After reporters found a privacy loophole allowing advertisers to access user identification. — WP
- “ Sometimes we move too fast. … We will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use. We will also give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services. ”
After Facebook reached a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission for deceiving consumers about privacy. — WP
- “ I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes. … Facebook has always been committed to being transparent about the information you have stored with us — and we have led the internet in building tools to give people the ability to see and control what they share. ”
After an academic paper exposed that Facebook conducted psychological tests on nearly 700,000 users without their knowledge. (Apology by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg) — WP
- “ It was poorly communicated. … And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you. ”
After criticism of the role of Facebook in spreading fake news about political candidates. — WP
- “ I think of Facebook as a technology company, but I recognize we have a greater responsibility than just building technology that information flows through. … Today we’re making it easier to report hoaxes. ”
After a Cleveland man posted a video of himself killing 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. — WP
- “ Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Godwin Sr., and we have a lot of work — and we will keep ding all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening. ”
While revealing a nine-step plan to stop nations from using Facebook to interfere in one another’s elections, noting that the amount of “problematic content” found so far is “relatively small.” — WP
- “ I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity. … It is a new challenge for internet communities to deal with nation states attempting to subvert elections. But if that’s what we must do, we are committed to rising to the occasion. ”
After continued criticism about the role of Facebook in Russian manipulation of the 2016 election. — WP
- “ For the ways my work has been used to divide rather than to bring us together, I ask for forgiveness and I will work to do better. ”
Announcing his personal challenge for the year is to fix Facebook. — WP
- “ We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. … This will be a serious year of self-improvement and I’m looking forward to learning from working to fix our issues together. ”
After details emerged about Cambridge Analytica taking user data. — WP
- “ We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you. … We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward. ”
After revealing Cambridge Analytica got unauthorized data on up to 87 million Facebook members — and that nearly all Facebook users may have had their public profile scraped. — WP
- “ We’re an idealistic and optimistic company. … But it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough. We didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking through how people could use these tools to do harm as well. … [We are] going to do a full investigation of every app that had a large amount of people’s data. ”
In prepared comments for his congressional testimony. — WP
- “ It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. … There’s more we can do here to limit the information developers can access and put more safeguards in place to prevent abuse. ”
Hard Hitting Headlines
Many news outlets have been unforgiving to Zuckerberg in recent days, despite his belated media relations efforts. Following are a sampling of news headlines and excerpts, which don’t bode well for him going forward:
“Why Mark Zuckerberg Should Step Down as Facebook CEO”
- “There is an increasing consensus in Washington, in Silicon Valley and around the world that something dramatic — something more than the flurry of announcements and privacy settings updates and crackdowns on developers — needs to be done.”
“Mark Zuckerberg’s Willful Blindness to Facebook’s Darkside”
- “Zuckerberg still sounds like a man betrayed by his own Facebook friends…As Facebook’s trials have deepened, Zuckerberg, by contrast, has become entangled in the utopian idea that he leads a global community.”
“6 questions Zuckerberg still hasn’t answered”
- “Zuckerberg and Facebook have still left a lot unexplained, however — including what they knew, when they knew it and why their 2.2 billion users should trust the company’s privacy promises now.”
“Here’s a Bingo Card to Play While Mark Zuckerberg Spews Bullshit on Capitol Hill”
- “He’s reportedly been getting lots of coaching from normal humans, so we can expect a lot of canned answers pulled from Facebook’s greatest hits. To help you navigate the proceedings we’ve gamified the experience.”
“Zuckerberg Gets a Crash Course in Charm, will Congress Care?”
- “Ahead of Mr. Zuckerberg’s trip to Washington, Facebook has hired a team from the law firm WilmerHale as well as outside consultants to coach him on questions lawmakers may ask, and on how to pace his answers and react if interrupted.”
I’m reminded of the old adage: “The bigger they come, the harder they fall.”
But the real question is not just whether Zuckerberg will fall on his face, but whether Facebook is too big to fail?
If nothing else, Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony is must-see TV in front of members of Congress and the white hot glare of the media spotlight.
Consider some other significant questions that might be answered as a result of Zuckerberg’s performance on Capitol Hill this week:
- What does the foreseeable future hold for Facebook?
- Will Zuckerberg ultimately survive, much less thrive, as CEO?
- Will American social media companies face new government regulations regarding data collection and user privacy?
These are historic hearings of Congress which are long overdue in scrutinizing social media in general, and Facebook in particular.
Meanwhile, Zuck’s apology tour continues on Capitol Hill.
What’s at stake? Only the future of Zuckerberg as CEO, the future of Facebook, and the future of American-based social media companies being regulated by the federal government.
And regarding his apology tour on Capitol Hill, Zuck and Facebook get a big thumbs down!
You also might like…
- How Mark Zuckerberg Got Schooled in Crisis Communications
- Media Relations 101: Why Transparency Always Triumphs
- Social Media Secrets Posthumously from Dale Carnegie
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David is a strategic communications consultant, freelance writer and former federal government spokesman based in the Washington, DC-area. His work experience includes the White House, Congress, OMB and EEOC. A native New Yorker, David was a journalist prior to his career of public service. You can also find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
NOTE: All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any public sector employer, private sector employer, organization or political entity.