Translating Mark Zuckerberg’s answers to Congress

facebook with zuck

By Samra Jones Bufkins

April 11, 2018.

I know, I know, I need to update this blog more often. I’ve been focusing on my other blog.

I’ve been watching congressional hearings since the Watergate days, and I watch on CSPAN to avoid interruption by pundits. I’ve spent the last two days watching Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg answer questions put to him by the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, I noticed a pattern to his answers, many of which were repeated.

Image: Mark Zuckerberg
NBC News shot of the photogs zooming in on Zuckerberg.

In my PR career I’ve written testimony and talking points for executives, so I think I have a decent idea about the real meaning of some of his answers.

Here’s my tongue-in-cheek “translation” of the most common answers Zuckerberg offered. Feel free to add your translation (or new ones) in the comments.

Zuckerberg:        Could you repeat the question? OR Can you clarify that for me?Translation:        I need time to figure out how to get out of this mess.

Zuckerberg:        This is a really important question.
Translation:        I’m kissing your butt so you won’t ask more hard questions.

user agreement cbs
Your user agreement sucks. (CBS News)

Zuckerberg:        We pride ourselves on ______________.
Translation:        Trust us, we’re smarter than everybody, especially you.

Zuckerberg:       Users own their data.
Translation:       Users are too stupid to set their privacy settings.

Zuckerberg:        I think it’s a good idea, and we should follow up on it.
Translation:        I need time to craft an answer that sounds plausible.

Zuckerberg:        Facebook has a broader responsibility than the law requires.
Translation:        We don’t need more regulations.

Zuckerberg:        I’m not directly familiar with the details.
Translation:        I’m not telling you how we do this stuff.

Zuckerberg:        I think you’re raising an important point.
Translation:        We haven’t thought about it.

Zuckerberg:        In general….
Translation:        Hang on while I figure out how to evade your question.

infoglitz com
Zuckerberg left his talking points open during a break. Andrew Harnik of the AP gave us a glimpse.

Zuckerberg:        I’ll have to get back to you on that.
Translation:        I need time to spin that and run it by our lawyers.

Zuckerberg:        We’re going to _____________________________
Translation:        We’re taking our time and hope you forget about it.

Zuckerberg:        I’m not sure how we’re going to implement that.
Translation:        We’re still figuring out how we can profit from it.

Zuckerberg:        Users have the ability to choose their privacy settings.
Translation:        We made it hard to do so nobody does it.

Zuckerberg:        People own their content.
Translation:        We think the users are stupid and we’re capitalizing on it.

Zuckerberg:        All the data is yours. You can remove it…share it…change settings.
Translation:        It’s your fault for not managing your account better.

Zuckerberg:        Let me say a couple of things about that.
Translation:        If I blather on long enough you’ll forget the question. or run out of time.

Zuckerberg:        Privacy is an incredibly high priority for us.
Translation:        We care about our privacy, but we make money off yours.

metro co uk
When asked if he would be willing to share the name of his hotel, it took eight seconds for him to say “Um, no.” (

Zuckerberg:        We need to take a more proactive view of policing what developers do.
Translation:        We’ll look at it but probably won’t do anything about it.

Zuckerberg:        We need to develop AI tools to handle that.
Translation:        I have no idea what to do about that.

Zuckerberg:        This is an important issue, and it’s complicated.
Translation:        I’m sucking up to you, but you’re really too clueless to understand .

Zuckerberg:        That would be a valuable thing to consider.
Translation:        Thanks for the idea.

Zuckerberg:        I can’t recall.
Translation:        I wish I could take the Fifth right now.

ny post
New York Post photo

Feel free to add your own translations in the comments. Meanwhile, let’s hope they have this party for Google and Amazon executives, and maybe invite Sheryl Sandberg too.

Twin Peaks Shooting: Early Thoughts and Observations on the (Lack of) Public Relations

It’s a little more than 48 hours after a biker gang brawl in the parking lot of the Waco breastaurant Twin Peaks, (killing nine, injuring 18 and resulting in the arrest of 170) and there’s barely a word from the Twin Peaks corporate office.

Sure, there was one tweet from the corporate account about 6 hours after the midday tragedy:

TWin Peaks tweet

A similar message was posted on the corporate Facebook page:

Twin Peaks facebook

Yesterday, about 24 hours after the events, the corporate office posted this on their Facebook page (you can go to the page to read the comments):

Twin Peaks facebook 2

Is that enough? I don’t think so. It’s admirable the company shut down the franchise within a day (the TABC pulled their liquor license ) but what else are they doing to contain the damage to their image?

Very little.

Looking at their Twitter account you see they still have a Major League Baseball Opening Day tweet pinned to the top of the page–folks, that was April 6.

Twin Peaks tweet 2

I’m pretty sure my students, along with any half-decent crisis communications manager would recommend they pin their tweet about the carnage to the top of their page. I even tweeted that suggestion to them several hours ago. I’ll let you know if they do it.

A company called the Chalak Mitra group apparently owned the franchise–and another one near Fort Hood–but a check of their website gleaned no information there or on their affiliate website. Bad web presence or shut down on purpose?  Their Facebook page is gone as well. The same company owns Genghis Grill, and that company’s website and social media are operating normally. (Genghis Grill has had its own problems in the past.)

So what’s a company to do in a situation like this? The franchise owner claims they cooperated with police but the Waco police claim they warned the restaurant about the possibility of violence and were ignored. Before it was taken down the local franchisee’s website apparently promoted regular “bike nights” catering to motorcycle groups.

This story isn’t going away soon. Most people don’t know the difference between a franchisee-run restaurant and a corporate-owned location–they see the name and that’s it.  When you consider my public relations motto “If the public thinks you have a problem, you have a problem” in that context, Twin Peaks has a problem. I’m sure they would love to get the signage off the side of the building while it appears as the backdrop for all the police press conferences, but they can’t get in because it’s a crime scene. It wouldn’t matter anyway–the name is out there and isn’t going away soon. The company is doing little to mitigate the damage to their name.

What would I recommend? It could be “too little too late” but Twin Peaks needs to post a message on every landing page of their website decrying the violence, confirming their closing of the Waco franchise, and offering their sympathy to the families and loved ones of those killed. They would also do well to offer some sort of assistance to the many people left unemployed by the sudden closure of the restaurant–counseling for the witnesses, a job fair, training–something that might help these innocent people get over this trauma.

After all, their own Facebook page says they are “in the people business.”

Take care of your people, Twin Peaks. There are plenty of places to eat.