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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to apologize in testimony to Congress

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is making his first appearances before lawmakers on Tuesday and Wednesday this week — and the sessions will be broadcast on TV and streamed online.
Image: Mark Zuckerberg arrives at a meeting with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
Mark Zuckerberg arrives for a meeting with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Capitol Hill on Monday.Alex Wong / Getty Images

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Monday released prepared statements for his upcoming testimony before U.S. lawmakers — sessions which will be broadcast on MSNBC and streamed online.

The notoriously press shy Zuckerberg is under intense pressure to explain how Facebook allowed the personal information of millions of its users to be used by a data analysis firm that worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Lawmakers will be looking to the co-founder of the social network, which reaches some 2 billion people around the world, to explain himself.

On Monday, Zuckerberg released his prepared statement for his testimony, issuing an apology and taking responsibility for its indiscretions.

"We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake," he wrote. "It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here."

Zuckerberg wrote that he now realizes that the company stated goal of connecting people had been short sighted.

"It’s not enough to just connect people, we have to make sure those connections are positive," Zuckerberg wrote in his statement. "It’s not enough to just give people a voice, we have to make sure people aren’t using it to hurt people or spread misinformation."

The statements focus on two main issues: Cambridge Analytica and Russian election interference.

On both areas, Zuckerberg laid out what the company knows and what it's doing about these issues.

He also reiterated the company's commitment to users over the advertisers that have helped make Facebook into one of the world's most valuable companies.

"My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together," Zuckerberg wrote. "Advertisers and developers will never take priority over that as long as I’m running Facebook."

Back in 2014, an academic at Cambridge University used a personality quiz to get information from Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica then allegedly used that data — which Facebook has said encompasses around 87 million people — for its political advertising operation.

The revelations have sparked a global backlash against Facebook and has increased fears about how user data is shared.

Despite calls for Zuckerberg to step down, he told The Atlantic he will not.

Zuckerberg is also in Washington on Monday to have private meetings with lawmakers ahead of the public sessions. He is meeting with Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson, D-FL, a spokesman for Nelson confirmed to NBC News.

The company is under fire on other fronts. Zuckerberg has admitted Facebook did little to stop misuse of the platform by Russian-backed activists who planted messages of social division back in 2016.

Zuckerberg said in a blog post on Monday: “Looking back, it’s clear we were too slow identifying election interference in 2016, and we need to do better in future elections."

In what is rapidly turning into Facebook’s worst scandal yet, Zuckerberg will also have to answer questions about what the company is doing to stop misuse of its platform in future elections in the U.S. and around the world. Facebook said Monday it would commission researchers to examine the effect of social media on "elections and democracy."

The top lawyers for Facebook, Twitter and Google testified to the lawmakers back in November, but Zuckerberg and the key executives from Twitter and Google declined to attend.

“We called for Mark Zuckerberg to testify before all of this blew up,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said on MSNBC's "Kasie DC" on Sunday night. “This happened and now he’s coming."

Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt, her big question for Zuckerberg is: “How do you fix this?"

Zuckerberg offered an answer in an interview with Vox last week: "We will dig through this hole, but it will take a few years."

How to watch

The Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees will stream the Tuesday session, titled, “Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data.” The session is scheduled to begin at 2:15 p.m. ET. will also live-stream coverage of the event as well as host a live blog to provide context and background on the proceedings.

YouTube and C-Span will also carry coverage of his testimony on Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET with the House Energy and Commerce Committee.