Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg.AP
  • Mark Zuckerberg will appear before US politicians in public for the first time on Tuesday to explain Facebook’s mishandling of user data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to the New York Times.
  • Zuckerberg has generally avoided explaining himself to politicians, and has hired a team of external consultants to coach him on the questions they might ask.
  • It’s a big moment for Facebook, whose core practices are under unprecedented media and political scrutiny.

Facebook has hired a bunch of experts to coach CEO Mark Zuckerberg ahead of his testimony to Congress this week, according to the New York Times.

Zuckerberg is expected to appear before US politicians on Tuesday to explain Facebook’s mishandling of user data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. A team of experts is reportedly prepping him with the questions they are likely to ask, how to time his answers, and how to deal with being interrupted, according to the newspaper’s sources.

Facebook has hired outside consultants which include a team from US law firm WilmerHale, led by Reginald J. Brown, a former special advisor to George W. Bush, according to the newspaper. According to his profile on WilmerHale’s site, Brown is well-versed in coaching clients “facing complex and high stakes regulatory, enforcement and reputational matters.”

Both the external consultants and an internal comms team are also working on Zuckerberg’s manner, given he is primarily a techie who is uncomfortable speaking in public, generally handing off those duties to lieutenants such as COO Sheryl Sandberg. That’s involved setting up mock congressional hearings, where the external consultants role-play US politicians.

According to the report, the internal team is pushing Zuckerberg to answer questions directly and not appear too defensive.

Zuckerberg will appear before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees on Tuesday, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. It’s the first time he has ever had to explain himself to the US government in public — something he’s generally tried to avoid doing. He has already avoided questioning by UK politicians.

“This hearing will be an important opportunity to shed light on critical consumer data privacy issues and help all Americans better understand what happens to their personal information online,” a statement from the commerce committee says.

According to the New York Times, Democrats on the committee will likely ask about the privacy scandal and how Facebook plans to prevent future election interference, as the US mid-terms approach. Republics are more likely to focus on political bias on Facebook.

You can read the full New York Times story here.

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