On a conference call with reporters today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that the social media giant took too limited a view of its responsibility to educate users on how to use its tools.
Zuckerberg said that in the past the company’s view was that “our job is to give them [people] tools, and it was largely their responsibility to figure out how to use them. I think it was wrong in retrospect to have that limited a view … I think we understand that we need to take a broader view, we’re not just building tools, but we need to take full responsibility for how people are using those tools as well.”
The conference call came today just hours after Facebook made a flurry of announcements. The first was that the company estimated Cambridge Analytica — the data analytics firm that was reported to have improperly obtained user data from 2014 — obtained data from 87 million users, not 50 million users as previously noted in a report from the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Observer. Second, Facebook updated its terms of service and data policies to help users more clearly understand what tools fall under the Facebook brand (Instagram, WhatsApp), and what data they can collect.
Third, the company made updates to its Events, Pages, Groups, and Instagram APIs — changes the company says will ensure that fewer developers get access to data of the friends of people who use the app. For example, apps can no longer gain access to a guest list of an event or posts written by attendees on the event wall. Finally, the House Energy and Commerce Committee said that Zuckerberg would be testifying in front of the committee on April 11 to shed light on the company’s data privacy policies.
Zuckerberg was also asked during the 45-minute Q&A about whether he still believes he’s the best person to run Facebook (he said he believes he is).
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica news, Zuckerberg said he imagines consumers still have two main questions about the company. First: “Can we [Facebook] get our systems under control and keep people safe?” Second: “Can we make sure our systems aren’t used to undermine democracy?” Zuckerberg added that the company was “confident” no more than 87 million users could have had their data obtained by Cambridge Analytica.
Yesterday, Facebook also announced that roughly 140 Facebook and Instagram accounts, as well as 138 Facebook Pages associated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), had been shut down. Zuckerberg was also asked during the call whether the news that Facebook had discovered more activity associated with the IRA — an agency that seeks to widen the reach of Russian propaganda — meant that Facebook didn’t have an entirely accurate picture of the problem. Zuckerberg acknowledged that “there is going to be more content that we find over time” and that quashing the IRA’s Facebook activity will “be a never ending-battle.”