As he watched Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify this week, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh made an “odd” observation. Congress is not going to be happy about this.
According to The Daily Caller, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said on Wednesday that many members of Congress do not know enough about technology in order to properly question Mark Zuckerberg, and this is primarily because of their ages.
“Did you watch any of the Zuckerberg testimony?” Limbaugh asked his listeners. “Were you at all amazed at how — I gotta be careful — I don’t want to be insulting here. I’m really not trying to be insulting. I wasn’t surprised. It was sad to see the relative ignorance of members of the House and Senate on tech matters. It was embarrassing in a couple occasions. The questions were literally embarrassing.”
“The realization that these people don’t have even a basic understanding of tech and what social media is and how it operates and what its purpose is. I think part of it is due to many of their ages,” he added.
Others appear to have made the same observation:
Some on Twitter were quick to point out the group of senators questioning Zuckerberg weren’t exactly digital natives — the average age of the lawmakers at the hearing was 62, and the median age of the chairs and ranking members of the two Senate committees holding the hearing was nearly 80. [Source: Vox]
Now, before any of the usual suspects get their panties in a wad and call this ageism, let’s put a couple of things into perspective. In general, people in their 80’s do not have the same understanding of social media as people who are in their teens, twenties, or thirties. There’s really no disputing that. A great-grandmother simply is not as adept at navigating and understanding Facebook as a millennial.
Thus, Rush has raised a concern which is absolutely valid: Will a group of elderly politicians be effective in their questioning of Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg? The answer to that is probably no. Many of them have already shown that they don’t really know what they’re talking about.
Just look at what Sen. Orrin Hatch, the 84-year-old Republican from Utah, asked early on in Tuesday’s five-hour hearing. “If [a version of Facebook will always be free], how do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” posed Hatch.
Zuckerberg paused a moment before answering, “Senator, we run ads.” He, and his staff sitting behind him, then grinned before Hatch moved onto his next question.
At best, most of the lawmakers in charge of questioning Zuckerberg only have a basic understanding of the way his company operates. Take, for example, Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii:
Even senators known as the more tech savvy of the bunch experienced hiccups. Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, asked if Facebook could track what one user emails another on WhatsApp. WhatsApp is the encrypted messaging service — which doesn’t use email — that Facebook bought in 2014.
He also asked Zuckerberg several times if messages sent on WhatsApp can be used to target ads. “Is there some algorithm that spits out some information to your ad platform, and then let’s say I’m emailing about ‘Black Panther’ within WhatsApp, do I get a WhatsApp — do I get a ‘Black Panther’ banner ad?” Schatz asked.
Each time, Zuckerberg responded that WhatsApp messages are fully encrypted, which means they can’t be read by Facebook or used for ad targeting. [Source: CNET]
Good grief. This is embarrassing. These members could have, at the very least, brushed up on their knowledge of the way Facebook operates over the weekend. It really isn’t rocket science. After all, millennials seem to have figured it out, and their claim to fame is eating Tide Pods. Get it together, Congress.