Senate

Senate Democrat says Facebook offers ‘crocodile tears about protecting children’

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
Greg Nash

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Facebook is “proffering more talk & crocodile tears about protecting children” following appearances by a Facebook executive on several Sunday shows.

“More bromides & platitudes from Facebook on the Sunday shows. Their aim should be protecting kids, not winning PR. Unspecific, superficial generalities are no substitute for real action,” the Senate Democrat tweeted on Sunday.

Blumenthal alleged that Facebook had taken “another page from Big Tobacco’s playbook,” claiming that while the social media company publicly advocated for Congress to pass reforms, “behind the scenes it fights them with millions of dollars, armies of lobbyists & lawyers, & blizzards of ads.”

The comments came as Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, appeared on several Sunday shows defending the company following blistering testimony from whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former product manager at the social media platform. 

Haugen had leaked documents to The Wall Street Journal, leading to a series on Facebook alleging the company failed to adequately address anti-COVID-19 rhetoric, knew that Instagram was harmful to its younger users and had conducted research on how to attract tweens to its platforms. 

Clegg bristled at comparisons that Blumenthal and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) previously made between Facebook and Big Tobacco, saying on ABC’s “This Week” that “I think it’s an extremely misleading analogy.”

“We’re a social media app that many, many people around the world use because it brings utility, it helps small businesses, it brings joy, it brings pleasure, it connects to you with people you care and love the most,” he said. “That’s what Facebook is about.”

Clegg told CNN’s “State of the Union” co-anchor Dana Bash that Facebook was pausing Instagram Kids, introducing a feature that would nudge teens to look at different content when they are looking at content that “may not be conducive to their well-being” and piloting a “Take a Break” feature to occasionally encourage teens to stop using Instagram.

“If Facebook is serious about helping to keep our kids safe online, it will cancel Instagram Kids, release its research, & support Mark Zuckerberg coming to my Commerce subcommittee to back real reforms, such as @SenMarkey & my KIDS Act & children’s privacy legislation,” Blumenthal tweeted.

Tags Dana Bash Ed Markey Facebook Frances Haugen Mark Zuckerberg Nick Clegg Richard Blumenthal
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