Thu, Apr 12, 2018 - Page 1 News List

US senators say they may move to rein in Facebook

Bloomberg

Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a joint hearing of the US Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on Tuesday in Washington.

Photo: AFP

US senators grilling Facebook Inc cofounder Mark Zuckerberg over a data leak signaled they might move to rein in the social media giant, which has thrived as part of an online industry that has largely escaped regulation.

“Your user agreement sucks,” US Senator John Kennedy told the 33-year-old CEO on Tuesday. “I don’t want to vote to have to regulate Facebook, but by God I will. A lot of that depends on you.”

Zuckerberg spent hours as the sole witness before a joint hearing of two committees mustering nearly half of the US Senate members.

The appearance followed the revelation that data from as many as 87 million users was siphoned to Cambridge Analytica, a British firm with ties to the 2016 campaign of US President Donald Trump.

Zuckerberg was to testify yesterday before the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, rounding out a Capitol Hill tour that is part apology and part defense of the company that has grown to encompass 2 billion users worldwide since being founded in a Harvard University dorm room in 2004.

On Tuesday, Zuckerberg said he was willing to consider new restrictions and agreed to send suggestions to Congress.

“My position is not that there should be no regulation,” Zuckerberg said. “The real question, as the Internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation.”

Facebook, fending off the Cambridge Analytica furor, has promised steps to improve transparency, saying, for instance, that it would create a searchable archive for federal election advertisements.

Some lawmakers said they did not view Facebook’s recent steps as enough. Senators said there would be more hearings. Some greeted Zuckerberg with thinly disguised belligerence.

US Senator Lindsey Graham, in a statement after questioning Zuckerberg, said there is “a dark side to Facebook.”

“Facebook is a virtual monopoly and monopolies need to be regulated,” Graham said.

“The status quo no longer works,” said US Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary. “Congress must determine if and how we need to strengthen privacy standards.”

Republicans hold majorities in both houses of Congress, and the party has historically been averse to regulating industry, so their statements envisioning regulation carry significance.

At Tuesday’s hearing Republican senators, including Roger Wicker and Orrin Hatch, cautioned against regulation.

Democrats are ready to lean in, casting the Cambridge Analytica scandal as a watershed.

“Oh sure, I think we’re going to have to do privacy legislation now,” US Senator Amy Klobuchar said in an interview during the hearing.

“The day of reckoning for American privacy has arrived,” US Senator Ed Markey said. “Facebook now has to deal with how much people understand about how vulnerable all their information is and how few protections are on the books. So I do think this is a legislating moment.”

Markey said he introduced a privacy bill on Tuesday, cosponsored with Richard Blumenthal, that offers a suite of new protections for consumers.

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