ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan was one of 44 U.S. senators to fire off questions at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees Tuesday.
Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, questions Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a Senate hearing. (From CSPAN)
Sullivan’s focus of the five minutes he had to question the social media mogul was on whether the company has gotten too big, and whether government regulation would be the next step to cement it as a super-influencer.
The Senator’s first question brought some laughs. What Sullivan intended to be a softball question, lauding Facebook’s dorm-room-to-social-media-giant story as an “only in America” tale, was met with Zuckerberg’s response that China has some very strong developing Internet companies.
After that first question, Sullivan’s focus turned to the size of Facebook, its influence and whether regulation would tamp the company’s influence or cement it as a superpower.
“When companies become big and powerful, and accumulate a lot of wealth and power,” Sullivan began, “What typically happens from this body (the Senate) is there’s an instinct to either regulate or break up.” He asked for Zuckerberg’s thoughts on those two policy approaches.
“I’m not the type of person who thinks that all regulation is bad,” Zuckerberg responded. “I think the Internet is becoming increasingly important in people’s lives. And I think we need to have a full conversation about what is the right regulation, not whether it should be or shouldn’t be (regulated).”
Sullivan questioned whether regulating an industry like social media, or a social media giant like Facebook, would cement Facebook’s top position, and stomp out smaller developing businesses in its wake.
For his final question, Sullivan asked what Facebook’s role and responsibility is when it comes to the content shared on its technological platforms.
“You mention you’re a tech company, a platform, but there are some saying you’re the world’s biggest publisher,” Sullivan said, mentioning that about 140 million Americans get their news from the website. “So which are you, are you a tech company, or are you the world’s largest publisher? Because I think that goes to a really important question on what form of regulation or government action, if any, we would take.”
Zuckerberg’s answer was, in part, that the company is tech first. “I agree that we’re responsible for the content. But we don’t produce the content,” he said. “I think that when people ask us if we’re a media company or a publisher, my understanding of what the heart of what they’re really getting at is: Do we feel responsible for the content on our platform? The answer to that I think is clearly yes. But I don’t think that that’s incompatible with fundamentally at our core being a technology company where the main thing that we do is have engineers and build products.”
Watch Sen. Sullivan’s full portion of the hearing above.