Mr. Zuckerberg Goes to Washington




Frank Capra’s famous movie from 1939 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is described in IMDb as “A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the US Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn’t back down.”

Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went to Washington as well. It appears though that he wasn’t site seeing. Politico reports

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes confirmed Zuckerberg’s visit was his first to Washington in an official capacity.

“He looks forward to sharing our company’s unique perspectives” on a variety of issues related to technology and the economy, Noyes said.

Now, whether you think that Zuckerberg is like Capra’s Mr. Smith or not is up to you but I doubt that naïve is a descriptor used for Zuckerberg these days.

So what was the trip about?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made his first visit to Washington Wednesday, meeting privately with members of Congress about online privacy and other technology issues.

During his short, stealthy visit this week, Zuckerberg met with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and other members of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force. He did not meet with press or attend any public events.

Hatch and others questioned Zuckerberg about social media, the tech industry’s opportunities for economic growth and legislative priorities needed to create more jobs in the tech sector, according to a task force press release.

He was not alone in Washington this week as another Facebook higher up, CTO Bret Taylor was busy doing his own thing to keep Facebook in the fray.

Both the House and Senate are considering legislation that would place sweeping new rules around how Internet companies are allowed to collect, share and store sensitive information for advertising purposes. Bret Taylor, Facebook’s chief technology officer, warned senators Tuesday that imposing vague technological regulations would stifle online innovation

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Isn’t it ironic how the company that set online privacy back to the digital stone age with its bone-headed arrogance is now the protector of all things innovative?

Facebook’s profile in Washington has been expanding and it will be hard for them to keep this kind of activity private no matter what the settings they have on it. Zuckerberg himself is now being ‘exposed’ to more of a celebrity treatment with a movie on tap for the fall and the paparazzi treatment that he got from Gawker over this past weekend.

There is no denying that Facebook has some work to do in the nation’s capital considering the attention it received earlier in the year as grandstanding senators drafted a letter to the FTC calling for policies to ensure privacy for users on social networks like Facebook. Because Facebook has been established as the poster child for online privacy issues they will have no choice but to step up the presence in DC much like Google has in the recent past.

I think we will all need to get used to this kind of news in the Internet world. It is not likely that Washington and the free market are going to play well together without some mediation. How that plays out will impact the rest of us and we’ll just have to sit back and wait to see what happens.

So what do you think will happen? Will Washington be able to keep companies like Google and Facebook in check? Should they? To what degree? So many questions.