Klobuchar: 'Facebook knew' it was hurting communities

Klobuchar: 'Facebook knew' it was hurting communities
© Greg Nash

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGOP Sen. Braun says abortion laws should be left up to states Klobuchar says 'best way' to protect abortion rights is to codify Roe v. Wade into law Sunday shows preview: Multiple states detect cases of the omicron variant MORE (D-Minn.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, on Monday said she believes Facebook knew its platform was promoting extremism and hurting its communities.

Her statement comes after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen disclosed internal documents from the tech giant to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“For too long, tech companies have said ‘Trust us, we’ve got this.’ Now the extent to which Facebook has put profits over people is becoming more and more clear. There’s a lot to discover in these papers about how the platform promotes extremism and hurts our communities, but here’s what is clear: Facebook knew,” Klobuchar said.

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The senator also called for the power of Big Tech to be reined in, adding that massive platforms must be held accountable for spreading disinformation, issuing harmful targeted content and promoting “toxic and dangerous content.”

“The time has come for action from all sides to rein in big tech. We need to revisit the laws and hold these companies accountable when they spread disinformation and target vulnerable users with harmful content,” Klobuchar said.

“We also need to pass federal privacy legislation with rules of the road for tech platforms to protect user data and ensure that algorithms stop promoting toxic and dangerous content. And we need to modernize our competition laws so dominant platforms can’t limit users’ choice and exclude other companies from succeeding,” she added.

Klobuchar's comments come after a group of 17 American news organizations began publishing a string of stories, referred to as "The Facebook Papers," which were based on the trove of redacted internal documents provided to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by Haugen's legal counsel.

There is currently an increased scrutiny on Facebook after Haugen came forward as a whistleblower earlier this month, delivering bombshell testimony and providing damning documents that show the tech giant prioritizing profits over user safety.

In her latest testimony on Monday before a British parliamentary committee, Haugen said Facebook exacerbates online hate and fails to adequately allocate resources to address the issue.

“Unquestionably, it’s making hate worse,” Haugen told the British lawmakers.

Earlier this month, the whistleblower appeared before the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection.

When reached for comment on Klobuchar’s remarks, a Facebook company spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that the tech giant has for two years been requesting updated regulations for the platform, adding that the company should not solely be tasked with making decisions regarding what content is considered harmful.

“For two and a half years we have been calling for updated regulations ourselves. Every day, we make difficult decisions on where to draw lines between free expression and harmful speech, privacy, security, and other issues, and we use both our own research and research from outside experts to improve our products and policies,” a company spokesperson said.

“But we should not be making these decisions on our own which is why for years we’ve been advocating for updated regulations where democratic governments set industry standards to which we can all adhere,” the spokesperson added.

Haugen is also behind The Wall Street Journal’s report last month, which accused the tech giant of downplaying the negative effects of Instagram, permitting anti-vaccine activists to spread misinformation and failing to provide an adequate response when concerns were voiced regarding human traffickers on the platform.

Facebook said the Journal’s report “contained deliberate mischaracterizations of what we are trying to do, and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook's leadership and employees.”

--Updated at 3:38 p.m.