Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers to discuss 'future internet regulation'

Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers to discuss 'future internet regulation'
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is visiting Washington this week to meet with lawmakers, including a slew of his company's most prominent critics. 

The D.C. trip marks the first time Zuckerberg has returned to Capitol Hill since his highly-publicized testimony about the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year.

“Mark will be in Washington, D.C., to meet with policymakers and talk about future internet regulation," Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told The Hill. "There are no public events planned.”

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The Facebook CEO will huddle with members that have spent the past year slamming his company over how it has handled and amassed user data, dealt with extremism and misinformation on its platform, and potentially used its dominant market position to squash competitors.

Late Wednesday night, Sen. Mark Warner's office said that the Virginia Democrat had arranged a dinner for Zuckerberg and a group of lawmakers. A spokesperson confirmed Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) attended the dinner.

“At Facebook’s request, Senator Warner helped organize a dinner meeting in Washington for Mr. Zuckerberg and a group of Senators," Rachel Cohen, a spokeswoman for Warner, said in a statement. "The participants had a discussion touching on multiple issues, including the role and responsibility of social media platforms in protecting our democracy, and what steps Congress should take to defend our elections, protect consumer data, and encourage competition in the social media space.” 

Cohen did not say which senators attended the dinner. 

Zuckerberg also met with Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDemocratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Trump nominee for Consumer Product Safety Commission involved in CDC guidance shelving: AP Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections MORE (D-Wash.) on Wednesday, a source familiar confirmed. Cantwell is the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which is leading the stalled efforts to draw up federal privacy legislation.

On Thursday, Zuckerberg will meet with lawmakers including Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), according to a person familiar with the plans. Hawley is one of the most outspoken Facebook critics in the GOP, and has criticized a Federal Trade Commission's $5 billion fine against the company over the Cambridge Analytica scandal for not being harsh enough.

Zuckerberg will meet with Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonDemocrats call on FTC to investigate allegations of TikTok child privacy violations GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Chinese official accuses US of 'pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War' MORE (R-Ark.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which is tasked with overseeing Facebook's new cryptocurrency project, Libra.

He will also sit down with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel, which has been looking into Facebook's market dominance, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE (D-Calif.).

It's unclear who else Zuckerberg will be meeting with or what exactly he plans to discuss. A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that she would not be meeting with him and that Facebook did not seek out a meeting.

Congress is exploring the possibility of a bipartisan consumer privacy bill, which would put into place the nation's first federal privacy law regulating social media companies' data practices. That legislation will likely draw parameters around how Facebook can collect data from its users and what data it is allowed to collect.

Zuckerberg has encouraged policymakers to get involved with regulating Silicon Valley as states across the country, most prominent California, inch towards implementing their own privacy laws. In March, Zuckerberg published an op-ed in The Washington Post, arguing that there needs to be more legal clarity in four areas: "harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability."

"I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators," Zuckerberg wrote. "By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what’s best about it — the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things — while also protecting society from broader harms."

Facebook has seen its public image sour dramatically over the past year in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and 2016 presidential election, during which Russian trolls were able to manipulate Facebook's platforms to sow discord in the U.S.

Updated on Thursday at 10:08 a.m.