WASHINGTON — Here is the coming nightmare for Facebook: A repetitive scene where founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top executives are dragged before congressional committees while lawmakers grill them for a supposed breach of public trust.
That nightmare is getting closer to reality, as committees in both the House and Senate are gearing up to bring in Zuckerberg for marathon sessions of testimony. It comes in the wake of the scandal involving the Republican political data firm Cambridge Analytica, as new scrutiny has enveloped the social media company's privacy policies.
Facebook deployed officials to Capitol Hill on Thursday to brief staffers across multiple committees, according to two people familiar with the proceedings. But the briefings were not enough to satisfy lawmakers.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce asked Zuckerberg to testify on Thursday, after the committee's staffers "felt that many questions were left unanswered" regarding a briefing from Facebook officials.
In addition, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Chairman Chuck Grassley to request that he extend an invite to Zuckerberg for a separate testimony.
Grassley is readying a final decision on bringing in Zuckerberg, according to two sources.
"We’ve made it clear we want him to come," said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. "We would like to see a number of the CEOs come from different companies to discuss these privacy issues. And Grassley seems open to it."
More testimony requests could be on the way as well. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation could request Zuckerberg's presence.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who heads the Commerce Committee, told Business Insider that they are also preparing to bring someone from Facebook. Whether that is Zuckerberg or Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg as of Thursday is unclear.
"There needs to be a public accountability and obviously having a hearing would be a way to do that," said Thune.
And while Zuckerberg expressed openness to testifying in interviews with CNN and Wired, he could still face dreaded subpoenas from committees. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told Business Insider he wants to subpoena Facebook regardless of whether the testimony is voluntary — as means of obtaining documents regarding their inquiries.
To make matters worse, high-profile hearings, whether for Cabinet confirmations or prominent investigations, can run long — à la Hillary Clinton's 11-hour testimony before the Select Committee on Benghazi in 2015. The reality is that Zuckerberg could potentially be facing multiple hours-long hearings over the course of several weeks, with each lawmaker looking to batter him with intense questions.
Facebook has sent officials to testify in open hearings before, but for years has avoided the imagery of having the face of the company pulled in to take the oath. That time is quickly coming to an end.