Lawmakers call on Facebook to do more to protect users

Washington DC Bureau

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Facebook was once again in the hot seat on Capitol Hill Wednesday, with lawmakers questioning what they call deceptive and manipulative practices online and calling on the tech giant to do more to protect users.

“Millions of Americans have been affected by data breaches and privacy abuses,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said during a committee hearing. “The cost of failure to protect sensitive information is being pushed on millions of people who are being breached.”

Tristan Harris, who left Google to create the Center for Humane Technology, told lawmakers during the hearing that the government should force Facebook to protect user data.

“We’re basically moving from a lawful society to an unlawful virtual internet society,” he told lawmakers during the hearing. “We have a Pentagon to protect our physical borders. We don’t have a Pentagon to protect our digital borders.”

He also said the government needs to create rules to make sure Facebook removes false news from its platform.

“The natural function of these platforms is to reward conspiracy theories, outrage…” he said. “It’s the reason why all of you at home have crazier and crazier constituents who believe crazier and crazier things.”

But Facebook rejected assertions that it’s not doing enough to stop abuse.

“We know we have an important role to play at Facebook in addressing manipulation and deception on our platform,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, said. “Whether it’s terror propaganda, hate speech, threats of violence, child exploitation content … we go after it proactively to try to find it and remove it.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., doesn’t buy it.

“I will believe Facebook is serious about privacy and protecting consumers when they start taking action to do it,” he said.

Not everyone is on board with new regulations. Some House Republicans at Wednesday’s hearing say the government should focus on enforcing rules already on the books, fearing new ones could suppress free speech.

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