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Zuckerberg unscathed by congressional grilling, stock rises

Washington/San Francisco

Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) fielded 10 hours of questions over two days from nearly 100 US lawmakers and emerged largely unscathed and considerably richer.

He parried questions of how much control people have over their data on the world’s largest social media network without a major gaffe, while avoiding being cornered into supporting new government regulation.

The hearings that ended on Wednesday revealed no consensus among US lawmakers about what kind of privacy legislation they might want to pursue, if any, and no timeline for action.

As he did on Tuesday before a Senate hearing, Zuckerberg refused during a House of Representatives committee hearing to make any promises to support new legislation or change how the social network does business.

“It is inevitable that there will need to be some regulation of internet firms”, he said, but avoided any specifics. Although Zuckerberg, 33, had never testified at a congressional hearing before, he succeeded in deflecting questions like a Washington veteran.

Forty times the internet mogul told lawmakers he had no answers at hand and would get back to them later. About one in three lawmakers got that response over the two days.

Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell expressed frustration with Zuckerberg’s frequent promises to get back to lawmakers later in writing. “Some things are striking during this conversation,” she said.

“As CEO, you didn’t know some key facts.” On one point, Zuckerberg undercut his consistent message that Facebook users have control of their data. He said he was among the nearly 87 million people whose personal information was improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. He gave no further details.

The Cambridge Analytica issue was the reason Zuckerberg was on Capitol Hill, answering questions about how that company – which has counted US President Donald Trump’s election campaign among its clients – got hold of data about Facebook users.

The performance had favourable results. Facebook shares closed up 0.78 per cent on Wednesday after rising 4.5 per cent Tuesday. Over the two days, the value of Zuckerberg’s stake in the company grew about $3 billion (Sh302.7 billion). –REUTERS

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