SEC Testimony Obtained by RFOB Shows Zuckerberg Misled Congress, Knew Far More About Cambridge Analytica Than Previously Acknowledged

Real Facebook Oversight Board
5 min readDec 20, 2022

Cambridge Edited Out of 2017 Speech; Discussed in Emails. Timeline Contradicts 2019 Testimony in Front of AOC, Congress.

20 December 2022 — After over a year of delays, Zamaan Qureshi, policy advisor for the Real Facebook Oversight Board and American University student, won a Freedom of Information Act battle with the Commission to release a 2019 transcript of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s deposition by the Commission. The deposition, available here, shows -

  • Mark Zuckerberg had earlier personal interest in Cambridge Analytica than ever before acknowledged, which calls into question his truthfulness in sworn 2019 Congressional testimony.
  • A January 2017 internal email from Zuckerberg inquiring about Cambridge Analytica’s technical abilities and how advanced they were in their analytics and ad capabilities.
  • By Fall of 2017 he was equating Cambridge Analytica as a threat commensurate with “Russian Intelligence and Soviet States,” in the first draft of a speech delivered on Facebook Live. In the speech, Zuckerberg himself wrote “We are looking into foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet states, as well as organizations like Cambridge Analytica.” The reference was later removed by advisors. This shows that between early 2017 and Fall 2017, Zuckerberg was made personally aware that Cambridge Analytica was a serious threat — and a reference to them was edited out of a notable speech.
  • This timeline calls into question his 2019 testimony when pressed by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, as he first says he learned about them in March 2018, then a few questions later clarifying he was only aware of them as an entity.
  • The timeline of Mark Zuckerberg’s personal awareness of Cambridge Analytica is the subject of two ongoing lawsuits in the Northern District of California and Delaware.

“This transcript reveals that something changed between January 2017 and September 2017 for Zuckerberg to deem Cambridge Analytica a threat commensurate with Russian Intelligence,” Qureshi said. “But for reasons the Facebook CEO has still not disclosed, the world would only learn about Cambridge Analytica in March 2018. “We may never know who removed the reference from the speech or why, but there’s one thing we can now say for sure: Facebook have gone to great lengths to conseal when Mark Zuckerberg personally became aware of Cambridge Analytica. Before Congress, before the U.K. Parliament, and before law enforcement agencies.”

Zuckerberg was apparently so nervous about his secret SEC testimony that he misspelled his own name at the start, adding an extra “T” to his middle name.

Importantly, Zuckerberg had testified to Congress before and after the SEC deposition (in April 2018 and November 2019 respectively) and was pressed about when he first became aware of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He maintained to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that it was not until March of 2018 when the Guardian and New York Times published their stories that he became aware and only after her repeated pressing did he admit he may have known the company existed earlier by stating, “I do think I was aware of Cambridge Analytica as an entity earlier I just don’t know that I was tracking how they were using Facebook specifically” (Video Testimony here). But more evidence unsealed in lawsuits in the Northern District of California revealed he may have been aware much earlier, which impacted decision-making to notify board members, investors, and users.

Qureshi worked for more than a year to obtain the transcripts, which have never before been reported. Key takeaways and excerpts of the transcripts are available below.

The Real Facebook Oversight Board urges Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and the House Financial Services Committee reexamine Zuckerberg’s 2019 testimony. The discrepancies show yet again that Zuckerberg and Meta are incorrigible, and need real, independent external oversight.

THE SEC TRANSCRIPTS: What they Show About Meta and Mark Zuckerberg

In the documents we find 5 key findings from the transcript while noting that a significant amount of material is still redacted after many months of back and forth negotiations between the company and the Commision.

  1. The Commission’s lawyers demonstrated that Zuckerberg was aware of Cambridge Analytica and asking questions about how they were using Facebook specifically dating back to January 2017 when he sent an internal email to other Facebook executives asking about a Vice/Motherboard article describing Cambridge Analytica’s services (Page 171).

“Can someone explain to me what they actually did from an analytics and ad perspective and how advanced it actually was?”

2. Zuckerberg provided a “Statement on Russian Election Meddling” via Facebook Live in the fall of 2017 to communicate to the public about the threat of Russian intelligence actors operating on Facebook. His initial Saturday draft read that “We are already looking into foreign actors including Russian intelligence actors in other Soviet states and organizations like Cambridge Analytica.” Clearly, Zuckerberg thought this was a major enough issue to flag at the time but his advisors ultimately decided against citing Cambridge Analytica at the last minute (Page 188). Here is what Zuckerberg actually said that day (TIME).

“We are looking into foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet states, as well as organizations like the campaigns, to further our understanding of how they used our tools.”

3. There were conversations about Cambridge Analytica between Zuckerberg and a policy advisor the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was hiring at the time (Page 174–176)

4. Very strong evidence that Sheryl Sandberg was deposed by the Commission, a new revelation revealed in Zuckerberg’s final conversation with the Commission, saying he new Facebook lawyers prepped a woman in an office next to him, presumably the now-departed COO Sheryl Sandberg (Page 200) after considerable discussion early in the deposition about their division of duties.

5. Facebook identified other violative apps that were seen as “sketchy” other than Cambridge Analytica (Page 161) which is the basis of a multi-district lawsuit in federal courts.

Zamaan Qureshi and members are available for interviews. Statements do not reflect the individual positions of all Real Facebook Oversight Board Members. Contact us at media@the-citizens.com.

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Real Facebook Oversight Board

An emergency response to the ongoing harms on Facebook’s platforms from leading global scholars, experts and advocates.