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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to apologize for his company's mistakes during his Washington testimony

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to apologize for his company's mistakes during his Washington testimony
“It was my mistake, and I’m sorry," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg writes in prepared remarks expected to be issued Tuesday. (Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg will take his apology tour to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

The CEO will offer contrition for failing to safeguard user data and not doing more to prevent Russian operatives from exploiting his platform to amplify discord amid the 2016 presidential campaign, according to prepared testimony published online Monday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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"It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here," Zuckerberg writes in prepared remarks expected to be issued Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committees.

Zuckerberg is scheduled to face the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

The world's largest social network is facing a massive backlash after more than a year of mounting controversy.

It started with Zuckerberg downplaying the extent of Russian interference on the platform after the 2016 election and crescendoed last month after news surfaced that Facebook failed to prevent Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that worked on the Trump campaign, from accessing data from up to 87 million unsuspecting Facebook users against the platform's rules.

The scandal has expanded to shine attention on social media more broadly and whether Americans fully grasp the extent of the personal data they provide to advertising-based technology platforms.

Facebook shares have declined about 14% in the three weeks since the New York Times and British newspaper the Observer first published reports about Cambridge Analytica obtaining user data.

In that time, a boycott of Facebook has been organized using the hashtag #DeleteFacebook. The campaign has found support from tech luminaries such as Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, and Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple.

The controversy and scrutiny from lawmakers raise the likelihood that Facebook and Silicon Valley might be subjected to new regulation.

In addition to the hearings this week, Facebook is facing a Federal Trade Commission investigation into whether the Menlo Park, Calif., company violated a 2011 consent order that requires users' permission for certain changes to privacy settings.

Facebook has embarked on a public relations campaign to win back consumer trust, including a barrage of media interviews by Zuckerberg and the company's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.

On Monday, Facebook began notifying users whose data was shared with Cambridge Analytica.

The company has scrambled to introduce new policies aimed at giving its users easier control over what data they choose to share.

Facebook is restricting outside app developers from accessing some personal information, such as religious and political opinions. Among other measures, the company will revoke developers' ability to obtain customer data if their app isn't used for three months.

In another section of the planned remarks, Zuckerberg describes the company's changing approach to political advertising, such as requiring disclosure of who paid for an ad and what other ads that group or person has run.

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Zuckerberg has thrown his support behind the Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan proposal that would require online political ads to adhere to the same disclosure and disclaimer rules as for political ads in print and on TV.

Facebook won't restrict that transparency to the U.S. Zuckerberg will also testify that the social network plans to hire thousands to help verify the identity of advertisers and people running political pages around the world.

"We're committed to getting this done in time for the critical months before the 2018 elections in the U.S. as well as elections in Mexico, Brazil, India, Pakistan and elsewhere in the next year," the remarks say.

Facebook is presenting itself to lawmakers as an idealistic company that was too naive to anticipate how bad actors might exploit its platform, echoing remarks Zuckerberg made to reporters in a rare conference call Wednesday.

Chief among those shortcomings, Zuckerberg plans to say, was its handling of Russian interference through a Moscow-backed organization called the Internet Research Agency. The group was found to have spread misinformation and organized rallies to pit Americans against each other.

Facebook estimates that 126 million Facebook users may have been served content from a page tied to the Internet Research Agency. An additional 20 million users on Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo sharing app, are also believed to have been served content from the group.

"For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can bring," Zuckerberg's planned testimony says. "But it's clear now that we didn't do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy. We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake."

UPDATES:

4:25 p.m.: This article was updated with additional quotes from Zuckerberg's planned remarks.

11:05 a.m.: This article has been updated throughout by staff reporting.

This article was originally published at 9:20 a.m.

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