Petri: The Zuckerberg hearings, condensed

Published April 12 2018
Updated April 12 2018

Senator: Welcome to the Facebook hearings on Capitol Hill, which, if you have even the faintest understanding about what Facebook does with data, will leave you enraged and frustrated. These two days will be like being trapped in a glass box watching your aging parents try to install a software update.

Senator 1: Mr. Zuckerberg, we hear that you started Facebook in your dorm room.

Mark Zuckerberg: Senator, yes.

Senator 1: I will now haltingly read a question that an aide who understands this technology better than I do has prepared, but I will mangle it slightly so that its premise is obviously wrong.

Zuckerberg: Senator, the answer to the specific question you have asked is, "No, Facebook has never done that."

Senator 1: I feel like there is something more I ought to ask, but I wonít.

Senator 2: Mr. Zuckerberg, I hear that you started Facebook in your dorm room.

Zuckerberg: Senator, yes.

Senator 2: And are you still in college, young man?

Zuckerberg: (With faint contempt) Senator, no.

Senator 3: I hear you started this company in your dorm room. Only in America, am I right?

Zuckerberg: Senator, technically, no.

Senator 4: Your user agreement sucks. Where I come from, we say that your users agreement stinks worse than a dead opossum under a cast-iron skillet! Itís lamer than two dead turkeys with a shoe full of muck. You need to go home and put it into plain English, not this Swahili!

Zuckerberg: Do not worry, senator, in Swahili the agreement is equally unclear, unless you were just saying that to be vaguely racist.

Senator 5: I will use this time to grandstand and not ask any questions.

Zuckerberg: Senator, yes.

Sen. Dick Durbin: Mr. Zuckerberg, where do you sleep?

Zuckerberg: What?

Durbin: Do you sleep? Where? But also, how?

Zuckerberg: I would rather not share.

Durbin: And isnít that what this is all about?

Zuckerberg: (Drinking five glasses of water) No.

Senator 6: How many different categories of data do you collect? How many data points?

Zuckerberg: Senator, what?

Senator 6: Do you agree that there ought to be a law against this?

Zuckerberg: I can say absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is fixed now.

Senator 6: What is "it"?

Zuckerberg: Senator, do you know the answer to that question or are you asking for information?

Senator 6: I do not know.

Zuckerberg: Then "it" is "everything."

Senator 6: Well, that sounds good.

Senator 7: A dorm room, a plan, a canal! Facebook! I remember when I was young and all we had were wood-burning computers.

Zuckerberg: (Drinking a sixth glass of water) Senator, that is not technically possible.

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But now, in the House.

Representative 1: Mr. Zuckerberg, I hear you started this company in your dorm room

Zuckerberg: Congressman, yes.

Representative 2: (Haltingly) If I Snapchat a Vine to my son, does instant Graham see it?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, no.

Representative 3: My son says that everyone can see everything I upload onto Facebook, but I donít want everyone to see it. I wanted only my friends to see it. But some of the people I am connected to on Facebook are not truly my friends.

Zuckerberg: I assure you, Facebook friends are real friends. In some ways, the social experiences you have on Facebook are more real than those you experience anywhere else.

Representative 4: My daughter said that if you donít put tape over the camera on your laptop, Instagram will sell opioids to your child. Can you ...

Zuckerberg: Uh.

Representative 5: I have a Facebook profile, Mr. Zuckerberg. But when I click the thing, it goes away, but sometimes when I click it, it gets bigger. I donít want it to be bigger.

Zuckerberg: I will have my team interface with you on that.

Congresswoman: Mr. Zuckerman, if an app obtains data about lots of users that they do not realize it has, and then sells that data, does Facebook become very upset?

Zuckerberg: Oh, yes, extremely upset! This is a breach of the most deep and fundamental kind. Facebook would never sell data.

Congresswoman: But if an app obtains data about lots of users that they did not realize it has, and just keeps that data to itself and uses it for its own purposes, does Facebook become upset?

Zuckerberg: (Baffled) No. Why would Facebook be upset?

Representative 6: I read once that you are selling our data and ó

Zuckerberg: We are not literally selling it, just monetizing it. Completely different.

Representative 6: (Blank look) I hear you started this in your dorm room, young man?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, yes.

Alexandra Petri is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences."
© 2018 Washington Post Writers Group