Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, warned on Tuesday of an online propaganda “arms race” with Russia and vowed that fighting interference in elections around the world is now his top priority. The 33-year-old billionaire, during testimony that lasted nearly five hours, was speaking to Congress in what was widely seen as a moment of reckoning for America’s tech industry. It came in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which, Facebook has admitted, the personal information of up to 87 million users were harvested without their permission. Zuckerberg’s comments gave an insight into the unnerving reach and influence of Facebook in numerous democratic societies. “The most important thing I care about right now is making sure no one interferes in the various 2018 elections around the world,” he said under questioning by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico.
The senator made reference to a billboard displayed earlier in the hearing that showed images – including Trump, the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and the Confederate flag – allegedly spread online by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election. He asked if Zuckerberg could guarantee such images would not appear on Facebook again.
“Senator, no, I can’t guarantee that because this is an ongoing arms race,” the CEO said. “As long as there are people sitting in Russia whose job it is to try and interfere with elections around the world, this is going to be an ongoing conflict.”
Earlier in the hearing, Zuckerberg acknowledged that “one of my greatest regrets in running the company” was being slow to uncover and act against disinformation campaigns by Russian trolls during the election.