US Senator tells Zuckerberg to use English instead of Swahili

Wednesday April 11 2018

Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. PHOTO ALEX WONG | AFP

A US Republican senator on Tuesday told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to use English and not Swahili during a Senate hearing.

Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, was questioning Zuckerberg on Facebook’s user agreement, which he said is too complicated and meant to legally protect Facebook and not to inform users of their rights.

He asked Zuckerberg to instruct the company’s lawyers to write a user agreement that is not in Swahili – that can be understood by everyone.

“I am going to suggest to you that you go back home and you rewrite it and tell your $1,200-an hour lawyers, no disrespect, they’re good, but tell them that you want it written in English and not Swahili, so the average American can understand it. That would be a start,” Senator Kennedy told Zuckerberg.

Racial slur

Social media users have criticized the senator for the “Swahili” reference, calling it a racial slur.


Peter Kerre, @pkerre tweeted “As a native Swahili speaker, @SenJohnKennedy, I find your unnecessary disparaging of the language distasteful. Not sure if your intent was to appear more intellectual or to pucker up a punchline against Mark Zuckerberg, but you missed by a wide margin. Shame on you!”

Rabiah Damji, @rabiahdamji said “Casual racism at its finest: @SenJohnKennedy just told #Zuckerberg that Facebook's user agreement needs to be written in "non-Swahili.

Swahili is not an acceptable metaphor for tech lingo you don't understand. Swahili is a language spoken in Eastern African countries.”

Questioned by CNN‘s Erin Burnett later on whether he should apologize for the reference following the outrage it caused, Sen Kennedy said “there is nothing to apologize for. I think everyone understood the point I’m trying to make.”

Zuckerberg appeared before the Senate to answer to recent discoveries that Facebook allowed the harvesting of the data of 87 million Facebook users to third parties without the user’s knowledge.