The Facebook Congressional Hearings were more disturbing than you realize

facebook congressional hearings

By Mark Schaefer

This week’s Facebook Congressional Hearings with CEO Mark Zuckerberg should have been more than embarrassing to U.S. citizens. It should be an alarm siren.

The round of questioning was widely mocked for revealing woeful ignorance of the workings of the internet, in particular Facebook’s ad-driven business model.

It proved conclusively what I had believed for many years … the U.S. government leaders know so little about tech that they cannot even ask meaningful questions under a national spotlight, let alone develop comprehensive cyber-policies that will protect our citizens and promote our critical tech industries.

And we will eventually NEED those policies:

Privacy –The most obvious current need is effective guidelines that protect citizens and their information. As I have written numerous times, Facebook (and other tech giants) cannot self-regulate (I predicted this in 2012). Even Zuckerberg admitted that regulations are necessary and inevitable.

Security — As I talk to business leaders, the number one issue keeping them up at night is cyber-security. It’s not just a business issue — it’s a matter of national security. Our electrical system, water supply, and air traffic control system are all hackable and the situation gets worse day by day as Internet of Things introduces billions of new vulnerabilities. While we are building literal and figurative walls to keep immigrants out of our country, the entire country is being held hostage by cyber-terrorists.

Competitiveness — Increasingly, American business leadership and GNP is being determined by the tech sector. But other countries are meeting, or exceeding, the nation’s innovation (most notably China). Does anybody in the government (Federal or state) understand what must be done to balance regulatory needs and competitive priorities?

AI and beyond — What do Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking have in common? They’ve all issued dire warnings about the potential threat of artificial intelligence to our civilization. While there is another camp that dismisses these fears, I side with these smart alarmists. Even Vladimir Putin said that AI is the new arms race and whoever rules AI will rule the world. I absolutely believe that to be true. AI development needs to be regulated and monitored on a global scale like nuclear weapons.

The future

With all of these issues regarding our personal and national welfare staring us in the face, how can it be possible that these issues are not part of the national agenda, that not one tech-related policy issue was part of either candidate’s platform in the last U.S. presidential election?

Washington is dangerously out of touch (with a few exceptions like Ro Khanna (D-CA), Kathy Castor (D-FL), and Darrell Issa (R-CA)).

If our congress doesn’t know enough about the basic workings of something mainstream like Facebook to pose intelligent questions, how could these folks possibly understand something like crypto-currency or artificial intelligence and respond with appropriate regulations?

The naive line of questioning and grandstanding was not a humorous sideshow. It represents a shocking threat to national security.

The only thing I know to do about it is to press our candidates of the future for their knowledge of these issues and insist that tech-savvy lawmakers begin entering the halls of government. Perhaps they should be made to take a test to show some basic understanding of these issues. No googling allowed. Oh wait … do they know how to work The Google?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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