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Mark Zuckerberg is learning how to be less robotic ahead of congressional hearings

Published Apr 9th, 2018 7:38AM EDT
Mark Zuckerberg
Image: LISA HORNAK/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

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In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that rocked Facebook a few weeks ago, the company has been working at a furious pace to ensure users that it’s doing everything in its power to right the sip. Aside from a slew of media appearances, the company this past Friday announced a new program whereby advertisers seeking to post ads about politics or hot button issues will need to verify both their identity and location. What’s more, political ads will be labeled as such and will also include information about who paid for the ad.

While the initiative is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, Facebook is still in the midst of a public relations nightmare. And speaking to the gravity of the situation, Zuckerberg will be heading to Capitol Hill this week to field questions from lawmakers about the Cambridge Analytica saga and host of related user privacy issues.

Of course, it goes without saying that no tech CEO ever wants to make the trek down to Washington D.C. and appear before congress. And Zuckerberg — at a surface level — seems particularly ill-suited for the task. Though clearly an incredible mind, remember that Zuckerberg is a tech-minded programmer and far from a savvy and political operator. That being the case, many people are curious as to how the Facebook founder, who it’s worth noting is just 33 years old, will fare when confronted with hard hitting questions from politicians.

In an effort to ensure that everything runs smoothly and that Zuckerberg’s appearance goes off without a hitch, The New York Times is reporting that Facebook recently hired a team of experts and coaches tasked with ensuring that Zuckerberg has the tools to deftly navigate the potentially deep waters of Congress. Of particular interest is that Zuckerberg has been learning how to be charming and exhibit humility in the face of heavy-handed and probing questions.

It has also hired a team of experts, including a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, to put Mr. Zuckerberg, 33, a cerebral coder who is uncomfortable speaking in public, through a crash course in humility and charm. The plan is that when he sits down before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees on Tuesday, Mr. Zuckerberg will have concrete changes to talk about, and no questions he can’t handle.

Ahead of Mr. Zuckerberg’s trip to Washington, Facebook has hired a team from the law firm WilmerHale as well as outside consultants to coach him on questions lawmakers may ask, and on how to pace his answers and react if interrupted, according to people close to the preparations.

Additionally, Zuckerberg has spent some time in mock congressional hearings to better prepare him for what will certainly be a tough round of questioning from seasoned lawmakers who aren’t keen on showing much deference to those before them.

Zuckerberg is slated to testify on Capitol Hill on both Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, first before a joint Senate Hearing and later before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.


Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.