During testimony before Congress today, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that his company was cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
While it has long been suspected that Facebook had been cooperating with investigations into Russian use of the social media company to influence the election, this is the first time Zuckerberg has confirmed it with Mueller’s work.
Facebook has long been accused of having a liberal bias, something Zuckerberg himself acknowledged in his testimony. Many are concerned that Facebook’s cooperation with Mueller would give them the opportunity to place undue blame on conservatives for the scandal, in an attempt to deflect blame from themselves.
On another issue currently in the news, he was asked whether his company had been contacted by the office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russian interference in the election.
“Yes,” he said, “I know that we are working with them.” He provided no other details, saying he wanted to be careful not to break any rules of confidentiality.
Earlier this year Mueller charged 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies in a plot to interfere in the presidential election through a social media propaganda effort that included online ad purchases using U.S. aliases and politicking on U.S. soil. Some of the Russian ads were on Facebook.
The AP detailed how Zuckerberg’s testimony comes as Facebook is facing criticism for allowing companies to mine and misuse data collected from users of the social media platform.
Zuckerberg began a two-day congressional inquisition with a public apology for the privacy scandal that has shaken the social media giant he founded more than a decade ago. He took responsibility for failing to prevent Cambridge Analytica, a firm affiliated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, from gathering personal information from 87 million users to try to influence elections.
Zuckerberg had apologized many times already, to users and the public, but this was the first time in his career that he had gone before Congress. He also is to testify Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“We have made a lot of mistakes in running the company,” Zuckerberg responded. “I think it’s pretty much impossible, I believe, to start a company in your dorm room and then grow it to be at the scale that we’re at now without making some mistakes.”
Zuckerberg said Facebook is going through “a broader philosophical shift in how we approach our responsibility as a company.” He said the company needs to take a “more proactive role” that includes ensuring the tools it creates are used in “good and healthy” ways.
In the hearings, Zuckerberg is not only trying to restore public trust in his company but also to stave off federal regulations that some lawmakers have floated. In his opening statement, he also apologized for his company’s involvement in facilitating fake news and Russian interference in the elections.
“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” he said. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
Separately, the company also began alerting some of its users that their data was gathered by Cambridge Analytica. A notification that appeared on Facebook for some users Tuesday told them that “one of your friends” used Facebook to log into a now-banned personality quiz app called “This Is Your Digital Life.” The notice says the app misused the information, including public profiles, page likes, birthdays and current cities, by sharing it with Cambridge Analytica.