The Washington Post - 24.10.2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

A18 EZ RE T H E  W A S H I N G T O N  P O S T.T H U R S D A Y , O C T O B E R  2 4,  2 0 1 9


Congressional lawmakers de-
livered a broad lashing of Face-
book chief executive Mark Zuck-
erberg on Wednesday, sniping at
his company’s plans to launch a
digital currency, its pockmarked
track record on privacy and diver-
sity, and its struggles to prevent
the spread of misinformation.
The wide-ranging criticisms
came largely from Democrats
during a hearing of the House
Financial Services Committee,
which convened the session to
probe Facebook’s plan to launch a
cryptocurrency, called Libra.
Facebook’s efforts have catalyzed
a rare alignment of opposition
from the party’s members of Con-
gress and some Trump adminis-
tration officials, who are con-
cerned Libra could trouble the
global financial system.
Quickly, though, the hearing
expanded in focus, reflecting the
simmering frustrations on Capi-
tol Hill with practically the en-
tirety of Facebook’s business. Rep.
Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the

panel’s chairwoman, cited the
news this week that Facebook had
removed from its platform a num-
ber of efforts to spread disinfor-
mation, including a Russian cam-
paign on Facebook-owned Insta-
gram that targeted users in swing
states such as Florida. She said it
showed foreign malefactors are
“at it again,” four years after Rus-
sians took aim at the 2016 race.
She also criticized Facebook’s
decision not to fact-check politi-
cal ads. The matter has riled Dem-
ocratic presidential candidates,
who have asked — unsuccessfully
— for Facebook to remove an ad
purchased by President Trump’s
presidential campaign that they
have said is filled with falsehoods.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)
later echoed those concerns that
Facebook permits a “lower stan-
dard for truthfulness and decen-
cy” for politicians, adding: “It is
hate speech, it’s hate, and it’s
leading to violence and death
threats in my office.”
During the congressional grill-
ing, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.)
challenged Facebook for failing to
stop child exploitation online.
Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) lit
into Zuckerberg for advertising
policies that he claimed had re-
sulted in discrimination against
diverse communities on social
media. And in one tense ex-
change, Rep. Gregory W. Meeks

(D-N.Y.) upbraided Zuckerberg
for his company’s role in serving
as an “accelerant in many of the
destructive” political fights
around the world.
“Facebook has been systemi-
cally found at the scene of the
crime,” he began. “Do you think
that’s just a coincidence?”
Zuckerberg’s testimony comes
amid a brutal month for Face-
book. The company learned this
week that it faces an antitrust
investigation by Democratic and
Republican attorneys general in
47 states, territories and the Dis-
trict of Columbia, far more than

the lead state behind the probe,
New York, had previously an-
nounced. Federal authorities also
are scrutinizing Facebook for po-
tential violations of competition
But the company’s most signifi-
cant political headaches are con-
nected with the 2020 presidential
election. Facebook stirred contro-
versy this month when it declined
to remove an ad from Trump’s
campaign that contained false-
hoods about former vice presi-
dent Joe Biden, who is vying for
the Democratic presidential

Biden and others, including
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.),
lambasted the tech giant for es-
sentially profiting off a form of
disinformation. But Facebook ar-
gued that it struck the right policy
position, allowing users to see
and interpret political speech on
their own. Zuckerberg told The
Washington Post in an interview
that he feared an “erosion of
truth” online but still felt that
Facebook achieved the proper
Days later, Facebook an-
nounced that a number of Rus-
sian and Iranian accounts had
sought to spread disinformation
on its services, including Insta-
gram, though Zuckerberg insist-
ed that the company had made
great strides in purging such con-
tent more swiftly since the 2016
election. “Elections have changed
significantly since 2016,” he said,
“and Facebook has changed, too.”
Addressing on Wednesday the
2020 election, the Facebook chief
defended the company’s ad pol-
icies: “The very small percent of
our business that’s made up of
political ads does not come any-
where close to justifying the kind
of controversy” the company has
experienced, Zuckerberg said.
Multiple committee Demo-
crats also pilloried Zuckerberg for
his company’s handling of issues
related to diversity, including its

hiring and contracting practices
and widely reported allegations
that its ad systems allowed hous-
ing companies to discriminate
against minorities. At one point,
an incensed Rep. Joyce Beatty
(D-Ohio) described Facebook’s
approach to civil rights as “ap-
palling and disgusting.”
“You should have known bet-
ter,” she said, telling Zuckerberg
that the company might have if
“you had real diversity and inclu-
sion on your team.”
As for Libra, on Wednesday,
Zuckerberg said Facebook was
trying to shift some of the respon-
sibility away from Facebook to
the Libra Association, a nonprofit
group of companies that will pilot
the digital currency.
“I get that I’m not the ideal
messenger right now,” he said.
Republicans largely came to
the defense of Facebook’s aspira-
tions for Libra.
“There’s a lot of anger out
there, and now, it’s being directed
at the architects of the system,”
said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry
(N.C.), the panel’s top GOP mem-
ber. “And maybe it’s not about
Libra. It’s not just about some
housing ads. And maybe it’s not
even really about Facebook at all.”
“Fair or not fair,” he continued,
“you’re here today to answer for
the digital age.”

Facebook’s Zuckerberg grilled at congressional hearing


Boeing’s latest dismal financial
results underscore how swiftly the
worldwide grounding of the 737
Max has choked off the company’s
No. 1 line of business — and how
urgently Boeing needs the jet back
in the air.
Revenue fell to $20 billion in
the third quarter, down 21 percent
from a year earlier, Boeing said in
a statement Wednesday. Profit fell
51 percent to $1.17 billion.
Amid sharply slowing sales,
Boeing desperately needs regula-
tors to approve its proposed soft-
ware fixes for the 737 Max in the
coming months. Airlines have said
they plan to return the jet to
service as soon as January — but

that timeline hinges on Boeing
satisfying global authorities, some
of which appear increasingly frus-
trated with the company’s re-
sponse to the safety issues sur-
rounding the Max.
Boeing said its latest financial
results assume the 737 Max fixes
will be approved by regulators by
the end of the year. The company
said it plans to increase produc-
tion of the jet to 57 per month by
late 2020, up from its pace of 42 a
month now. Boeing lowered its
production from 52 a month after
the grounding in March.
But on a call with analysts
Wednesday, CEO Dennis Muilen-
burg cautioned that a further de-
lay in regulatory approvals for the
737 Max could force the company

to consider cutting production
again — or even a “temporary
shutdown of the Max production
Boeing also said it plans to
lower production of the 787
Dreamliner beginning in late
2020, saying that U.S.-China trade
tensions and weaker demand
from Chinese customers have cre-
ated a setback for the long-haul
“I think the recent trade discus-
sions have been productive —
they’re moving in a good direc-
tion,” Muilenburg said on the ana-
lyst call. “But for purposes of our
company, we have to be very disci-
plined in our production rate
Muilenburg is to testify in Con-

gress next week, close to the first
anniversary of the first 737 Max
crash. He is expected to face ques-
tions about why the company
failed to promptly provide regula-
tors with text messages in which a
high-level Boeing employee wrote
about an “egregious” problem
with the plane’s flight-control soft-
ware and said he “basically lied to
the regulators (unknowingly)”
about it.
The messages show Boeing’s
experts had identified critical
safety concerns with the Max
years ago, even as Boeing execu-
tives have publicly argued that the
company had followed its own
protocols for design and certifica-
tion of the jet. In a stern letter to
Boeing last week, the administra-

tor of the Federal Aviation Admin-
istration, Stephen Dickson, said:
“I expect your explanation im-
Boeing’s stock has fallen
24 percent since early March,
when a second crash of the 737
Max prompted the jet’s worldwide
grounding and created new risks
for a company that was once a
Wall Street darling. Analysts at
Credit Suisse downgraded the
stock this week, saying the text
messages and other disclosures
about Boeing’s handling of safety
issues “may shatter the fragile
trust between regulators and Boe-
The crisis is already reshaping
Boeing’s leadership. Muilenburg,
still CEO, was stripped of his title

of chairman of the board — an
effort by Boeing’s board to provide
a stronger check on his power.
Boeing said this week that Kevin
McAllister, the executive who
oversaw the 737 Max as head of the
commercial planes division, had
resigned from that role and had
been replaced by company vet-
eran Stan Deal.
McAllister, a former General
Electric executive hired to lead
Boeing’s commercial business in
2016, sold about $5 million of
company shares in February of
this year, according to a regulatory

 More at

Boeing’s 3rd-quarter revenue and profit fall as costs of 737 Max crisis build

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been under pressure to
remove political advertisements that spread falsehoods.

CEO defends company
on cryptocurrency, 2020
election and civil rights

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