Dem rep slams Facebook: It 'cannot be trusted to regulate itself'

Dem rep slams Facebook: It 'cannot be trusted to regulate itself'
© Greg Nash

Rhode Island Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineThe Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington Democrats signal growing interest in examining ties between NRA, Russia House Dems talking more about impeaching Trump MORE (D) sharply criticized tech giant Facebook on Twitter on Wednesday evening, arguing that the social media company can't be trusted any longer to regulate itself.

In a series of tweets, the lawmaker ripped into Facebook executives over a New York Times report detailing how the company used a Republican opposition research firm to link public detractors of the company to billionaire Democratic donor George Soros amid criticism of Facebook for its use by Russian operatives to influence Americans during the 2016 election. The report was based mainly on anonymous, insider accounts.

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"We’ve known for some time that @Facebook chose to turn a blind eye to the spread of hate speech and Russian propaganda on its platform," Cicilline wrote Wednesday night.

"Now we know that once they knew the truth, top @Facebook executives did everything they could to hide it from the public by using a playbook of suppressing opposition and propagating conspiracy theories," he added. "It is long past time for us to take action."

Cicilline, who is the ranking member and likely incoming chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law and also sits on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, also accused Facebook executives of attempting to "buy Congress's silence" on the issue and prevent lawmakers from taking meaningful action.

"I am confident that, despite @Facebook’s best efforts to buy Congress’s silence, the will of the American people will prevail," he wrote.

"Next January, Congress should get to work enacting new laws to hold concentrated economic power to account, address the corrupting influence of corporate money in our democracy, and restore the rights of Americans," he added, referring to the incoming Democratic majority set to take office in January.

Facebook has faced criticism from lawmakers and others for months over its response to reports that Russian operatives sowed divisive and often false information among Americans in swing states about key issues during the 2016 election campaign.

A Facebook spokesperson responded to the Times report Wednesday by saying that the company was doing what it could to root out "bad actors."

"This has been a tough time at Facebook and our entire management team has been focused on tackling the issues we face," a Facebook spokesperson said. "While these are hard problems we are working hard to ensure that people find our products useful and that we protect our community from bad actors."