Mark Zuckerberg left yesterday evening’s congressional hearing considerably richer than when he had entered it.
According to the latest figures from Bloomberg’s rich list, Zuckerberg’s personal fortune jumped by a staggering $2.7bn during the course of the five-hour questioning by US senators.
And despite widespread criticism of the calibre of the questioning Zuckerberg faced, Facebook as a whole saw its best day of shares in almost two years.
But it’s not all good news for the company: Tuesday’s rise comes after the company’s value dropped by almost $100bn after recent revelations that 87 million people’s profile data had been sold to Cambridge Analytica, a company that used private data to influence elections in the US and the UK.
The financial success of the congressional hearing will no doubt fuel further criticism of the questioning Zuckerberg faced, during which the 33-year-old CEO spent most of the session explaining the basic principles of his social network, or referring questions to his team.
One Republican Senator, Orrin Hatch, was widely ridiculed online after he asked Zuckerberg how Facebook makes money. “Senator, we run ads,” Zuckerberg responded, spelling out the giant site’s basic business model.
Another senator then asked about “emailing within WhatsApp”, as part of a question about whether the contents of private WhatsApp messages could be used to sell adverts. Zuckerburg was then forced to explain to the senators how the app, which is used by over 1 billion people works.
However there were some breakthroughs during the hearing. The CEO finally admitted, after years of criticism, that Facebook simply doesn’t have the manpower to tackle fake news or moderate pages effectively.
He also revealed that the US is in an “arms race” with Russia over election tampering and accepted that Facebook had not been fully prepared for the unorthodox methods that Russia had used.
“There are people in Russia whose job it is to try to exploit our systems and other internet systems and other systems as well. We need to invest in getting better at this too.” he said.
It was these shortcomings that almost certainly undermined what should have been an afternoon of hard questions for the 33-year-old billionaire and indeed many will be hoping that his second appearance in front of the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce will be considerably more taxing.
He’s not out of the water yet, the revelations around Cambridge Analytica have continued with the most recent discovery being that a “very small” number of the 87 million users whose data was leaked had their private messages shared as well.
The number is believed to only be around 1,500, but with Facebook now investigating almost 10,000 apps it begs the question of how many more examples like this will be found.
That hearing will start at 15:00 UK time and while Zuckerberg clearly has some questions that still need answering, the CEO has clearly found his stride and won’t be looking undo what was ultimately, a very profitable afternoon’s work.