A little-noticed exchange between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Senator Tom Udall, Democrat from New Mexico, blew me away–and spoke volumes about what Senator Udall believes really matters in addressing national problems.
In questioning Zuckerberg, Senator Udall invoked the Honest Ads Act, which, if passed, would impose certain regulations on the content of internet ads on Facebook and Google. I haven't read the act yet, and this post is not about the bill.
It is about the underlying attitude and assumptions in Senator Udall's aggressive questioning of Mr. Zuckerberg.
Here is the exchange from the Washington Post transcript:
UDALL: And — and I think you've said earlier that you support the Honest Ads Act, and so I assume that means you want changes in the law in order to — to effectuate exactly what you talked about?
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, yes.
UDALL: Yeah, yeah.
ZUCKERBERG: We support the Honest Ads Act. We're implementing it.
UDALL: And so are you going to — are you going to come back up here and be a strong advocate, to see that that law is passed?
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, the biggest thing that I think we can do is implement it. And we're doing that.
UDALL: That's a kind of yes-or-no question, there. I hate to interrupt you, but are you going to come back and be a strong advocate? You're angry about this. You think there ought to be change. There ought to be a law put in place. Are you going to come back and be an advocate, to get a law in place like that?
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, our team is certainly going to work on this. What I can say is, the biggest thing that…
UDALL:I'm talking about you, not your team.
ZUCKERBERG:Well, Senator, I try…
UDALL: (inaudible) come back here and be…
ZUCKERBERG:… not to come to D.C.
UDALL:… an advocate for that law? That's what I want to see. I mean, you're upset about this. We're upset about this. I — I'd like a yes-or-no answer on that one.
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I'm — I'm posting and speaking out publicly about how important this is. I don't come to Washington, D.C., too often. I'm going to direct my team to focus on this. And the biggest thing that I feel like we can do is implement it, which we're doing.
UDALL: Well, the biggest thing you can do is to be a strong advocate yourself, personally, here in Washington. Just let me make that clear. But many of us have seen the kinds of images shown earlier by Senator Leahy. You saw those images that he held up.
In effect, Udall is saying: Lobby me. Lobby us.
This is what Senator Udall believes constitutes solving problems: coming to Washington and respectfully addressing elected officials (such as Mr. Udall).
It is not trying to run a business. It's apparently not anything that can be accomplished out in the rest of the country.
For all of Facebook's bad behavior, not being sufficiently engaged in Washington isn't among it's problems. That's a virtue. Zuckerberg is right that it is far more important for him to lead the biggest social media enterprises on the planet and put in proper protections there, rather than bothering Members of Congress to do their jobs.