Topline: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stumbled through a week of missteps and beatings that showed deep mistrust of him and his social network’s ability to abide by the law, let alone fight fake news and police users’ behavior.
- On Tuesday, a coalition of 47 state attorneys general announced plans to take part in an antitrust investigation of Facebook, led by New York.
- Zuckerberg was treated like a campaign liability when presidential Pete Buttigieg faced criticism for taking advice and hanging out with his fellow Harvard classmate.
- Then came a Congressional grilling of Zuckerberg Wednesday on political ads, fake news and child pornography when Libra, Facebook’s maligned cryptocurrency project, was the original focus of the hearing (and it too was roundly criticized).
- When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quizzed Zuckerberg about whether she could run her own false ads on Facebook saying Republicans supported her Green New Deal, Zuckerberg replied, “I think probably.” (The exchange soon went viral).
- On Thursday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey criticized Zuckerberg for saying all posts on Facebook are equal (in reality, an algorithm decides how many people see them) and for claiming he started the platform in response to the Iraq War—instead of a way to rate women’s appearances, which Zuckerberg has denied.
- On Friday, as Facebook unveiled its News Tab feature, Zuckerberg immediately faced criticism because it includes highly inflammatory sites like Breitbart in the feature.
Crucial quote: “You’re probably the right person at the right time to take this beating,” representative Juan Vargas, a California Democrat, told Zuckerberg during Wednesday’s hearing.
Key background: Facebook was already facing a separate antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission prior to this week. Facebook, along with Amazon, Apple and Google, is also part of a Department of Justice investigation into online platforms. Politically, Elizabeth Warren has called for Facebook to be broken up because she believes the platform drives conversation that “undermines our democracy.” (For his part, Zuckerberg said a Warren presidency would “suck.”) But Zuckerberg has claimed that if the U.S. fails to innovate—especially with cryptocurrency—China could edge out the dollar for global financial dominance.
What to watch for: Facebook’s earnings report on Wednesday, which some options traders are betting will cause the high-flying company’s stock to drop.