WASHINGTON: US lawmakers pounded Facebook on Tuesday, accusing CEO Mark Zuckerberg of pushing for higher profits while being cavalier about user safety and they demanded regulators investigate whistleblower accusations that the social media company harms kids and stokes divisions.
During a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing, whistleblower Frances Haugen called for transparency about how Facebook entices users to extend their stay on the site. “As long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is unaccountable,” she said. “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed,” Haugen said.
In an era when bipartisanship is rare, lawmakers from both parties excoriated the nearly $1 trillion company in a hearing that exemplified the rising anger in Congress with Facebook amid numerous demands for legislative reforms.
As lawmakers criticised Facebook and Zuckerberg, the company’s spokespeople fought back on Twitter, arguing Haugen did not work directly on some of the issues she was being questioned on.
Senate Commerce subcommittee chair Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said Facebook knew that its products were addictive, like cigarettes. He called for Zuckerberg to testify before the committee, and for the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission to probe the firm. “Our children are the ones who are victims. Teens today looking in the mirror feel insecurity. Mark Zuckerberg ought to be looking at himself in the mirror,” Blumenthal said, adding that Zuckerberg instead was going sailing.
The top Republican on the subcommittee, Marsha Blackburn, said Facebook turned a blind eye to kids below age 13 on its sites. “It is clear Facebook prioritises profit over the well-being of kids and users.”
Haugen, a former product manager on Facebook’s civic misinformation, said FB has sought to keep its operations confidential. “Today, no regulator has a menu of solutions for how to fix FB, because Facebook didn’t want them to know enough about what’s causing the problems.”