[Metaphors & Symbolism] Facebook's testimony before Congress started with a surprise as three protestors held up posters showing Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg as a two-

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From Sean Wolfe:




  • During the House Judiciary Committee's hearing on social media content filtering, three protestors held up signs during the testimony of Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy management.
  • The images appeared to depict Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, as two heads on an octopus with its legs stretched around a globe.
  • There is a URL at the bottom of the image — which appears to lead to the website belonging to a group called 'Freedom from Facebook.'

Shortly after Facebook's head of global policy Monika Bickert's testimony began at the House Judiciary Committee's hearing on social media content filtering, three protestors held up images behind her.

The small posters appeared to depict Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, as two heads on an octopus with its legs stretched around a globe.

The protestors silently held the images for a few seconds, which was available on the livestream of the event.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte then interrupted Bickert, and asked the protestors to stop — which they did, and then left the hearing.

There was a URL at the bottom of the images the protestors held up, which appeared to led to www.freedomfromfb.com, a website owned by the group 'Freedom from Facebook,' which describes Facebook as a monopoly and urges site visitors to sign a petition asking the Federal Trade Commission to break it up.


Facebook exec Monika Bickert began her testimony in front of the House Judiciary committee just now. Three members of the crowd sitting behind her held up images of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg as a two-headed octopus sitting on the globe. pic.twitter.com/v1pheOHJ87

— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) July 17, 2018

Looks like this is the group that was running the protest. Eddie Vale on Twitter

— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) July 17, 2018

Some suggested that the images were anti-semetic — the image of an octopus stretched around the world has been used to depict Jewish people in anti-semetic cartoons in the past.


I'd love to think it's just ignorance here, but I'm not a fan of people protesting two Jewish Facebook execs by invoking a classic antisemitic trope Ryan Mac on Twitter

— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) July 17, 2018

The old Jews-as-world-strangling-octopus move Ryan Mac on Twitter

— Tom Gara (@tomgara) July 17, 2018

Ryan Mac, a tech reporter for BuzzFeed, said he spoke to one of the women who held the signs up — and she said it was a reference to an anti-Standard Oil cartoon, and said it wasn't intended to be anti-semetic.


I talked to one of the women who held up a sign and asked if the photo was meant to be anti-semitic, as some have suggested on Twitter. She said "of course not" and said it was meant to be a play on a depiction of Standard Oil. pic.twitter.com/x4f7ghU2Dg

— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) July 17, 2018



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From Jake Kanter:




  • Campaign group Freedom from Facebook protested at a congressional hearing this week by holding up an image of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg as a two-headed octopus.
  • It was a stunt designed to raise awareness for Freedom from Facebook's mission to break up Facebook and make it more accountable.
  • Organiser Sarah Miller said the group plans to fight Facebook for as long as it takes to bring about change, telling Business Insider that the health of democracy depends on it.
  • Freedom from Facebook has several coalition partners, including the Communications Workers of America union, while 10,000 people have signed its petition to the Federal Trade Commission.


Monika Bickert was in the witness stand ready to give evidence to Congress. As one of Facebook's most senior executives, she was about to be grilled by the House Judiciary Committee on fake news and content filtering.

Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy management, began delivering her opening remarks when at least four protestors held aloft signs featuring an image of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg as a two-headed octopus. Moments later, the protestors walked out.


via GIPHY


The bizarre moment piqued interest, with journalists following the congressional hearing, including BuzzFeed's Ryan Mac, writing about the incident. As it turned out, it was the latest stunt to be organised Freedom from Facebook, a campaign group that wants to break up the social network.

Freedom from Facebook is a coalition of privacy and anti-monopoly advocacy groups, essentially born out of the Open Markets Institute in May. It counts at least nine other groups among its coalition and last week added its most powerful ally yet: The Communications Workers of America union, which represents 700,000 US workers.

Sarah Miller, the deputy director of the Open Markets Institute and spokeswoman for Freedom from Facebook, said the group was created in the heat of Cambridge Analytica scandal, which started "animating groups that we'd never seen have any sort of shared mission."



Freedom from Facebook has three key objectives: Separating Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger; forcing Facebook to be interoperable with competing social networks; and introducing strong privacy rules to protect Facebook users.

"Mark Zuckerberg has far too much power, his own shareholders called him a dictator," Miller said. "The set of positions that we're offering are returning to a more responsible, reasonable status quo."

This is not a flash in the pan issue, we are committed to finishing this job, and the health of our democracy depends on it​

More than 10,000 people have signed its petition to the Federal Trade Commission, while Miller is in talks with several other organisations to join the campaign.

They intend to contribute to the FTC's public hearings on competition and consumers over the coming months. It is the first time the FTC a conducted such a consultation in more than 20 years.

Miller would not disclose Freedom from Facebook's financial backers, believing that anonymity is important when "we go up some of the most powerful organisations." She stressed, however, that the coalition is in it for the long haul.

"This is not a flash in the pan issue, we are committed to finishing this job, and we feel like the health of our democracy depends on it," Miller added.

She said the EU's record $5 billion fine of Google this week over its abuse of Android shows a growing appetite to tackle the dominance of Silicon Valley giants. It is a question of "when not if" Facebook will face scrutiny, Miller said.

So, you can expect to see more protests like the one in Congress this week, even if it attracted attention for the wrong reasons. Some observers suggested that the octopus image, with CEO Zuckerberg and COO Sandberg, was anti-Semitic, given similar imagery was used in Nazi propaganda. Both Zuckerberg and Sandberg are Jewish.

Miller said the designer, Eddie Vale, is Jewish himself and there was "no intention" for it to be anti-Semitic. She said the design was a "riff" on the classic Standard Oil cartoon by Joseph Keppler.



Facebook declined to comment, but pointed Business Insider to quotes in Axios when Freedom from Facebook launched. The company argued that regulators reviewed Facebook's acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram and concluded they didn't harm competition.

And speaking on to Recode's Kara Swisher this week, Zuckerberg made the case against Facebook being broken up. He said clipping the wings of firms like Facebook would open the door to companies from countries like China to fill the void. Companies which "do not share the values that we have," Zuckerberg said, and would not be willing to cooperate when things go wrong for US users.

"You can bet that if the government hears word that it’s election interference or terrorism, I don’t think Chinese companies are going to wanna cooperate as much and try to aid the national interest there," he said.

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