3 Silicon Valley Insider Questions Posed to Mark Zuckerberg

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

During Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's congressional testimony on Tuesday, several lawmakers asked questions specific to people, places or companies well known in Silicon Valley, but perhaps less so in other places.

Here are a few details explaining those questions:

1. Who is Palmer Luckey?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R- Texas) asked Mark Zuckerberg if Facebook hired or fired people based on their political leanings. Cruz then asked about someone named Palmer Luckey.

Luckey is the co-founder of Oculus, a VR company. According to the Daily Beast, while at Facebook, Luckey funded a Trump group that circulated dirty memes about Hillary Clinton during the presidential election. Luckey is also accused of financially backing a pro-Trump political organization called Nimble America, a self-described “social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit” in support of then Republican Donald Trump. Zuckerberg said he had no knowledge of Luckey being fired because of political leanings.

2. What is Palantir?

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) asked Zuckerberg about the role the data mining company Palantir Technologies may have played in the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal.


"Do you think Palantir ever scraped data from Facebook?" Cantwell asked.

Zuckerberg replied, "I am not familiar with what Palantir does."

Cantwell then made this comment: "Some people have referred to them as Stanford Analytica," alluding to the company's proximity and connections to Stanford University.

Palantir is a company that was founded by Peter Thiel. Most of the company is housed in nondescript buildings in downtown Palo Alto. Palantir's original clients were federal agencies of the Underground Utility Location and Damage Prevention (USIC). It has since expanded its customer base to serve state and local governments, as well as private companies in the financial and health care industries.

Last month the New York Times reported that in 2014, Cambridge Analytica sought to harvest the Facebook data of tens of millions of Americans and received help from at least one employee at Palantir.

3. What is the IRA?

Not to be confused with the Irish Republican Army or an individual retirement account -- the IRA that lawmakers keep talking about is the Internet Research Agency. The IRA is a Russian company, based in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The United States government describes the IRA as a troll farm. It's believed the IRA employed fake accounts registered on major social networks like Facebook, discussion boards and online newspaper sites to influence the 2016 presidential election.