US lawmakers slammed Facebook on Tuesday, accusing CEO Mark Zuckerberg of pushing for more profits when it comes to user safety and calling on regulators to investigate whistleblower allegations that the social media company harms children. and stokes the divisions.
During a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing, whistleblower Frances Hogen called for transparency about how Facebook entices users to extend their stay on the site, giving them ample opportunity to advertise.
“As long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is irresponsible,” said a former employee of the nearly $1 trillion company who turned whistleblower.
“The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safe, but won’t make the necessary changes because they put their astronomical advantage in front of the public. Congressional action is needed,” Haugen said.
In an era when bipartisanship is rare in Washington, lawmakers from both parties cheered the company, depicting growing anger in Congress with Facebook amid several demands for legislative reform.
Republican Senator Dan Sullivan said he is concerned about how subsidiaries like Facebook and Instagram affect children’s mental health. “I think we’re going to look back 20 years from now and we’re all ‘What were we thinking?
Haugen revealed that she was the one who used documents used in a Wall Street Journal investigation and a Senate hearing on the harms of Instagram to teenage girls. She compared social media sites to narcotics such as tobacco and opioids.
The panel’s chairman, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said Facebook knew its products were addictive. “Tech now faces that big tobacco jaw-dropping moment of truth,” he said.
He called for Zuckerberg to testify before the committee, and for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the company.
Blumenthal said, “Our children are the victims. Teenagers today are looking in the mirror and feeling doubts and insecurities. Mark Zuckerberg should look at himself in the mirror.”
Blumenthal said after the hearing that he would like to ask Zuckerberg why he rejected recommendations to make the company’s products safer for users.
Facebook’s share price rose 2.2% to $333.43 on Tuesday afternoon, despite the criticism.
A day after Facebook was shut down for hours, Haugen pointed to the breakdown in her testimony: “The use of Facebook for more than five hours to deepen divisions, destabilize democracy and expose young girls and women to their bodies.” Wasn’t about to make you feel bad.”
As lawmakers criticized Facebook and Zuckerberg, company spokespersons fought back on Twitter, arguing that Haugen did not act directly on some of the issues he was being questioned.
Haugen, a former product manager for Facebook’s civil misinformation team, left the company with thousands of confidential documents.
Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn accused Facebook of turning a blind eye to children under the age of 13 on its sites. “It is clear that Facebook prioritizes profit over the well-being of children and all users,” she said.
Facebook spokeswoman Lena Pietsch disputed Haugen’s knowledge of the company’s inner workings. “We do not agree with his characterization of many of the issues he testified about,” Pitts said in a statement.
Last week, Facebook’s global security chief Antigone Davis defended the company before Congress, saying it was seeking to release additional internal studies in an effort to be more transparent about its findings.
Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Commerce Committee, said she would write a letter to Facebook insisting it would not remove documents related to the Rohingya, Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim minority. A colleague said she would ask for wider retention of the documents.
Haugen said she would encourage “monitoring and public scrutiny” of how content algorithms work and their results. He suggested creating a dedicated body within the federal government to oversee social media companies.
Blumenthal said he would like to have an additional hearing to discuss national security issues related to Facebook.
Haugen said Facebook has also done little to prevent its site from being used by people who plan violence.
Facebook was used by people planning mass killings in Myanmar and the US Capitol was attacked on January 6 by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, who were determined to tout the 2020 election results.
Speaking to the absent Zuckerberg, Senator Edward Markey said during the hearing: “Your time to invade our privacy and victimize children is over. Congress will take action.”
Lawmakers during the hearing referred to Zuckerberg as sailing instead of facing his responsibilities. The CEO posted a video this weekend of his wife in a boat with the company’s new smart glasses on.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)