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How tech baffled an elderly Congress

[Published: 2019-01-05T19:24:26Z] [Author: ] [Powered by:]

Members of the 115th Congress — one of the oldest sessions in history — are sworn into office in January 2017. (MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA )




WASHINGTON — If you’re trying to recall what your members of Congress accomplished in 2018, the answer is: They grew older.

The 115th Congress was already one of the oldest in history when it convened at the dawn of the Trump administration — average age 58 in the House, 62 in the Senate. By the time the 115th hobbled into extinction at the end of 2018, artifacts from its attempts to engage the younger folk and their digital ways lay strewn across the internet like the fossil record of an obsolete species.

There were the agonizing video clips from April’s Facebook hearing, in which 68-year-old Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., attempted to ask Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg a question about data privacy, and revealed a conception of social media resembling a wad of tangled Christmas lights: “Do you track devices that an individual who uses Facebook has that is connected to the device that they use for their Facebook connection, but not necessarily connected to Facebook?”

“I’m not — I’m not sure of the answer to that question,” Zuckerberg replied, as if he could even be sure it was a question.

Come December it was Google chief Sundar Pichai’s turn to visit the Capitol and watch Rep. Steve Cohen, the 69-year-old Democrat from Tennessee, wave his hands in the air and complain: “I use your apparatus often, or your search engine, and I don’t understand all of the different ways that you can turn off the locations. There ...