Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg finally met the press Wednesday, nearly a week after reports of a massive breach of user information by Trump-aligned data firm Cambridge Analytica.
In all four interviews—which came a day after he was absent from the company’s internal town-hall meeting about the data breach—he reiterated that regaining users’ trust after a series of missteps and public-relations fiascos was paramount as lawmakers call for new regulations on the social-media giant and users consider exiting the platform.
Even as he spent Wednesday apologizing, Zuckerberg also appeared to suggest that Facebook had been the breach’s unwitting victim, telling CNN’s Laurie Segall that after the social-media giant learned in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica had improperly obtained user data, they’d asked the company to destroy it and then assumed that they’d done so.
“I’m used to when people legally certify when they do something, that they’ll do it,” Zuckerberg said. “It was a mistake in retrospect.”
He said the company is now doing a full audit and taking a closer look at all types of data leveraged by third-party developers. Zuckerberg said that even he is unsure what that audit will find, and that it is entirely possible other firms have also retained access to information they claimed to have deleted.
“It’s hard to know what we’ll find but we’re going to review thousands of apps,” Zuckerberg said.
Zuckerberg also said that Facebook users whose data was compromised in the Cambridge Analytica breach that Facebook had learned about in 2015 would now be notified. He did not say whether Facebook would extend the same notice to other users if its audit indeed finds that other companies had also wrongfully received or retained information about its users.
Prior to this latest controversy, Facebook took nearly a year to publicly acknowledge the platform’s role in Trump’s rise and Russian election interference. Meanwhile, users were bombarded with media reports of rampant fake news on the platform, divisive ads being planted by foreign actors, and more.
“If you told me in 2004 that a big part of my responsibility today would be to protect the integrity of elections, I wouldn’t believe that that’s something I’d have to work on,” Zuckerberg told CNN.
Still, he vowed to do better. He said Facebook is already looking ahead to the 2018 U.S. midterms and big elections in India, Brazil, and elsewhere and is moving proactively to combat bad actors who seek to hijack the platform. He said that he was “sure” some bad actors are already trying to meddle in the U.S. midterms taking place this fall.
“In last year, in 2017 with the special election in Alabama, we deployed some new A.I. tools to identify fake accounts and false news, and we found a significant number of Macedonian accounts that were trying to spread false news, and were able to eliminate those,” Zuckerberg told The New York Times when asked what in particular Facebook was doing to improve election integrity.
“What’s clear is that in 2016 we were not on top of as many issues as we should have,” he said to CNN.
Asked if he would testify about some of those missteps in Congress, Zuckerberg said he’d be happy to—provided that “it’s the right thing to do.” He explained that generally Facebook likes to send specialists in the area related to the issue at hand, though if he is the authority on a particular topic he would appear himself.
Zuckerberg also admitted a willingness to accept certain federal regulations. He said legislation in support of greater ad transparency on the platform is something Facebook would be particularly amenable to, which would perhaps be convenient as the company has already begun addressing those concerns.
Before signing off, Zuckerberg talked about how becoming a father had changed his outlook on the company. He said that no longer does he seek to have the greatest impact possible on the world; now he just wants to build something that will make his daughters proud.
Still, when The New York Times asked him if he’s losing sleep over Facebook’s recent bad PR run and the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, he said, “That’s a good question… It’s certainly true that, over the course of Facebook, I’ve made all kinds of different mistakes, whether that’s technical mistakes or business mistakes or hiring mistakes. We’ve launched product after product that didn’t work. I spend most of my time looking forward, trying to figure out how to solve the issues that people are having today, because I think that’s what people in our community would want.”