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When I arrived at the Hart Senate Building last Tuesday morning, the first people I saw were the protesters — 20 or so of them, one inexplicably dressed as Spider-Man — who were fanned out beside the entrance, holding photos of the face of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive.
“Zuckerberg, you’re absurd!” they chanted.
I was in Washington to watch Mr. Zuckerberg testify for two days in front of Senate and House committees about Facebook’s privacy breaches, its failure to stop Russian election interference and assorted other misdeeds. And the protesters outside were just the start of the shenanigans. Inside the building, one person attended the hearing dressed in a Russian troll costume. Another group, from the left-wing organization Code Pink, stood up at the beginning of the hearing with signs that read “Stop corporate spying” and “Protect our privacy.” (Perhaps undercutting their message, they also held a sign that read “Like us on Facebook.”)
Friends and colleagues who cover Congress for a living have told me that hearings aren’t always this exciting. But I’m a tech columnist. And in my world, this was the equivalent of a Mayweather-McGregor fight.
I squeezed into a seat in the front row of the press section, just over Mr. Zuckerberg’s right shoulder, and settled in for a marathon session. (You’re not supposed to bring food or drink into these rooms, but I was warned it would be a long session with few breaks, so I smuggled some trail mix in my bag.) My seat was tiny and uncomfortable, with less legroom than your average discount airline. But the hearing itself was fascinating, and I quickly forgot about my discomfort as Mr. Zuckerberg began his testimony with a statement in which he said, “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake.”