WASHINGTON — Today Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee, telling members of Congress, “Facebook became a $1-trillion company by paying for its profits with our safety, including the safety of our children.” She is urging Congress to break out of “previous regulatory frames” and explore new ways to make the abusive platform giant accountable to the public.
Haugen had previously released tens of thousands of pages of internal documents detailing the ways Facebook routinely hid evidence that its platform algorithms and business model regularly put the health and well being of the public and our democracy at risk. These documents are now in the hands of the Security and Exchange Commission, Congress and reporters at The Wall Street Journal.
Free Press Action Co-CEO Jessica J. González made the following statement:
“Facebook is a vector for bigotry, lies and violence, and it is undermining democracy at every turn. That much we’ve long known. What Frances Haugen has bravely revealed is Facebook’s actual knowledge and serial cover-up of the extent of its global harms. Haugen’s testimony before Congress is a definitive moment — one that calls for an immediate response from Washington.
“We now unequivocally know that Facebook is unfit to self-govern. In fact, it’s actively making things worse: According to Haugen’s evidence, Facebook chose to switch off its civic-disinformation safeguards, allowing lies about the results of the 2020 election to proliferate across its platforms in advance of Trump extremists’ January 6 assault on Capitol Hill.
“Haugen is right. We need to break out of prior regulatory frames. Free Press Action activists are now calling on Congress, regulators and the White House to take three sensible steps.
“First, Congress needs to pass a comprehensive data-privacy law that limits the collection of our personal information, protects our civil rights, stops abusive practices, prohibits algorithmic discrimination and provides proper oversight and enforcement. This includes mandating regular transparency reports from the platforms.
“Second, Congress needs to pass legislation that imposes a tax on online advertising and directs the resulting money to support the sorts of high-quality noncommercial and local journalism that can act as the antidote to the spread of dangerous disinformation via Facebook and other platforms.
“And finally, we need to use oversight authority at various government agencies to regulate data collection and algorithmic decision-making in a coordinated fashion. For example, the Federal Trade Commission already has the ability to investigate and enforce against harms caused by abusive commercial data practices, and can launch a rulemaking proceeding to minimize data collection and discriminatory algorithmic practices.
“Facebook is unwilling to solve the grave problems it’s created; it’s incapable of putting people over profits. That’s why we’re asking Congress and other regulators to step up and protect our civil and human rights online. Facebook has a moral obligation to do better, and Free Press Action has been working for years to compel the company to ‘Change The Terms’ and adopt a series of internal policy measures. But it’s now time for the government to provide urgent oversight.”