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It’s a moment Mark Zuckerberg tried to avoid, but the Facebook CEO on Tuesday will face questions from a firing squad of lawmakers keen to get answers about the company’s data privacy efforts.
Zuckerberg, 33, will testify before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees on Tuesday in a session that is expected to last several hours. On Wednesday, he’ll face more questions from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The billionaire CEO, who is wildly protective of his own privacy and rarely gives interviews, will come face to face with lawmakers, many of whom are former prosecutors and likely eager to be seen on camera being tough on Facebook.
The first hearing will begin at 2:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Zuckerberg will give a brief opening statement and it’s then expected he’ll face up to four hours of questioning from as many as 44 Senators, who will be filtering in and out of the room throughout the hearing.
Zuckerberg is used to the glare of the spotlight, but only when it’s something he can control, such as sharing positive Facebook news or talking about his philanthropy.
Expect Zuckerberg to be outside of his comfort zone when he sits behind the table on Tuesday, taking ownership for Facebook’s mistakes and stressing accountability. He’ll likely swap his trademark t-shirt for a suit and tie.
In a preview of his opening remarks released by the House, Zuckerberg plans to apologize in his opening statement.
“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. 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,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
He’ll then have the task of convincing the people who have the power to regulate his company that Facebook has a plan to make sure election meddling and data harvesting don’t happen again.
“So now we have to go through every part of our relationship with people and make sure we’re taking a broad enough view of our responsibility,” Zuckerberg wrote. “It will take some time to work through all of the changes we need to make, but I’m committed to getting it right.”
There have been questions about Zuckerberg’s leadership, a topic that could come up during the hearings from lawmakers who may wonder if Facebook and its leader have become too powerful for their own good.
As the chairman and CEO of Facebook, Zuckerberg wields unparalleled influence over the company, including the majority of voting shares, making a coup nearly impossible. Zuckerberg is showing no signs of wanting to fire himself. He told NBC News last week he still believes he’s the best person to run Facebook.
“The reality of this is when you’re building something like Facebook, there are going to be things you mess up. I don’t think anyone is going to be perfect, but I think everyone should learn from mistakes and continuing to be better,” he said.
Zuckerberg’s testimony will be his first time before the United States government and a long-time coming after 18 months of scandals, ranging from election meddling to user privacy. He’s spent months wriggling his way out of invitations from Congress, instead sending the company’s general counsel and suggesting he wants the best qualified person to testify.
This week, the world will be watching as Zuckerberg finally faces the reality he tried so hard to avoid. He is the best person to speak for Facebook.