Facebook founder and America’s youngest self-made Billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, hasn’t been having a great 2018. As Donald Trump continues to embarrass America with his child’s-play politics the world’s seeking to make someone pay for his election. Facebook stands accused of giving away large amounts of personal data to Cambridge Analytica who, though tactical advertising, were able to very specifically target people with persuasive messages during the election period of 2014. For the first time since its meteoric rise to success, Facebook is in serious trouble. Since the discovery was made, 1 in 20 British people have deleted their Facebook accounts. Whilst Sheryl Sandberg travels the globe on a PR tour, Zuckerberg is defending his company to the Senate.
In an accidental moment, Zuckerberg’s preparation notes for the hearing were photographed. The reveal of the notes gives a rare insight into Mark Zuckerberg’s attitudes and approach; his level of preparation which has made him so successful so far.
So what do the notes say? Well, they are organised into the topics Zuckerberg was expecting, including: Compensation, Reverse Lookup, Accountability, Data Safety, Business Model, Defending Facebook, Election Integrity, Diversity, Competition.
Firstly there’s an emphasis on transparency and honesty. The starting point is: “- Breach of trust; sorry we let it happen; took steps in 2014 to stop it happening again.” They go on to bullet the key questions the company is being asked and his understanding of why Facebook are in the position they are today. He planned to acknowledge that they “Didn’t think enough about abuse” and as a next step are “rethinking every part of our relationship with people”. There are notes designed to reassure people, balanced with those pointing to progress. Zuckerberg showed a willingness to accept personal responsibility on behalf of the company, rather than commence a man-hunt amongst employees. Though he also acknowledged he has fired people in the past and would if that was appropriate for this situation. He firmly planned to distance the company from the methods of CA.
There is a reminder under many categories to reiterate that they “Made mistakes, working hard to fix them.” There are arguments he has planned to make depending on the tone of the interrogator including the tone of his response: “- [If attacked: Respectfully, I reject that. Not who we are.]”. He called on allies such as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to appear as a hero figure lost in a bit of trouble “At FB, we try hard to charge you less” and that they are one of many companies “- Lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data, never seen Apple notify people.” with a slight threat over equality to the courts and manhunt:“–Important you hold everyone to the same standard.]” “- Small part of ad market: advertisers have choices too — $650 billion market, we have 6%.” Finally, appealing to people’s personal interests: “US tech companies key asset for America, break up strengthens Chinese companies.”
What is clear is that Mark Zuckerberg and his team, thought clearly about their wording and their stance for court. Words which will be echoed back to him countless times as he faces both the courts and the media. Whilst the public demands answers and media focuses its airtime on the case, we are witnessing a critical moment in Facebook’s history and whether or not Zuckerberg rises to this leadership challenge will shape the future of his company and his empire.