September 25, 2021
Congressional anger at damaging new revelations and a legal action resulting from the Cambridge Analytica affair have put the Social Media giant’s founder under renewed pressure
Will Mark Zuckerberg’s total control of Facebook turn into a liability? | John Naughton
For devotees of C-Span, the public-service media network that covers the US Congress, Tuesday was an interesting day. The Senate judiciary subcommittee on competition policy, antitrust and consumer rights held a hearing on the social media companies, which for most purposes meant Google and Facebook. It was intriguing in several ways. For one thing, the senators were exercised, sceptical and sometimes angered by the evasive cant served up by the corporate executives whom they had summoned. More importantly, the perceptible anger was bipartisan (a rare thing in the current Congress). And lastly, some of the most aggressive questioning of the hapless Facebook representative came from Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who is believed to be PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s preferred candidate for president in 2024. And Thiel is a member of Facebook’s board of directors!
This congressional ire was triggered by a terrific scoop in the Wall Street Journal, which had got its hands on a trove of internal Facebook documents. These exposed the yawning chasm between Facebook’s public versions of its stance on various contentious issues and its internal discussions of them. Specifically, the trove showed that: at least 5.8 million high-profile users had been allowed to avoid the company’s normal enforcement processes; research by Instagram (owned by Facebook) had revealed the risk the platform poses to teenagers’ mental health (“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls” was one striking phrase); the company knew that its algorithms rewarded outrage; and it had been slow to stop drug cartels and human traffickers from using its platform.
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