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Facebook whistleblower warns US lawmakers of regulation deadlock

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Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen (C) talks with Rashad Robinson (L), President of the Color of Change, and Kara Frederick (R), Technology Policy Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, before a hearing on Capitol Hill./AFP
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Dec 02, 2021 - 07:53 AM

WASHINGTON — Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen urged a US Congress panel Wednesday not to get mired in drawn out debate amid a new push to set social media regulations, which have long been blocked by partisan combat.

Haugen’s leaks of internal company documents sparked outrage, damning press reports and pledges from elected officials to finally take action against the platforms — but so far, no new rules have been enacted.

“Facebook wants you to have analysis paralysis, to get stuck on false choices and not act here,” Haugen told a US House of Representatives panel on Big Tech accountability.

“Facebook wants you to get caught up in a long, drawn out debate over the minutiae of different legislative approaches. Please don’t fall into that trap,” she added in written testimony.

A series of articles underpinned by the leaked documents argued Facebook, which changed its name to Meta in October, knew its sites could harm some of their billions of users — but executives chose growth over safety.

The social media giant has pushed fiercely back against the press reports as selectively using its research to paint a dark vision of the company’s work.

“What we need is a set of updated rules for the internet set by Congress that companies should follow, which is why we’ve been asking for this for nearly three years,” Meta said in a statement.

US lawmakers have put forth new or updated legislative proposals in the wake of the scandal, but efforts to regulate social media in the United States have long lagged technology’s advances and been stymied by partisan divides.

Republican lawmakers frequently argue that speech limits on the platform stifle conservative voices, while Democrats worry over the harms of misinformation online.

Representative Jeff Duncan, a Republican, highlighted the partisan differences on the question of limiting speech on social media, saying the companies have already gone too far.

“Social media platforms need to check themselves and understand that they’re not gods with a little g,” he said. “The past few years, we’ve seen an unprecedented onslaught from Big Brother tech on conservative thought.”

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