Sen. Blumenthal: Facebook PR campaign nothing but bromides, platitudes

Subcommittee chairman Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., questions former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, in Washington. (Drew Angerer/Pool via AP)

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UPDATED 7:31 AM PT – Monday, October 11, 2021

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (R-Conn.) has continued his attacks on social media giant Facebook. In a series of tweets Sunday, Blumenthal derided Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg for his appearances on several corporate media news outlets.

Blumenthal said even through Clegg’s talk and “crocodile tears,” the world now knows the company pushed destructive content to kids only to make more money. The Connecticut Democrat added, the Big Tech giant’s words don’t match its actions.  He cited its calls to regulate Big Tech companies, but propensity towards fighting Congress with millions-of-dollars and armies of lobbyists and lawyers.

Blumenthal compared Facebook’s actions to that of Big Tobacco. However, Clegg claimed the comparison was a mischaracterization.

“I think it’s an extremely misleading analogy, of course we are not,” stated the Facebook official. “We are 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 you with people that you care about and love the most. That’s what Facebook’s about.”

Clegg also claimed the company is working on ways to steer kids way from negative content.

“We’re going to introduce news controls for adults of teens, on an optional basis obviously, so that adults can supervise what their teens are doing online,” he explained. “Secondly, we’re going to introduce something, which I think will make a considerable difference. Which is where our systems see that a teenager is looking at the same content over and over again, and it’s content which may not be conducive to their well being. We will nudge them to look at other content.”

The Facebook PR campaign started in response to testimony from whistleblower Frances Haugen in front of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee last week in which she described the dubious policies of Facebook. Haugen warned lawmakers about the company’s lax content policing, which she said is harming teens and kids.

Senators were shook-up over the testimony with many vowing to overhaul efforts to reform social media companies and regulate their content.

“I believe that the time for conversation is done; the time for action is now,” stated Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) “Basically for so long the social media companies have been saying, and the other tech platforms, ‘trust us, we got this.’ Well look where we are now.”

Sen. Blumenthal added, if Facebook really wants to help keep kids safe on its platform then the company needs to release its research and pressure CEO Mark Zuckerberg into working with lawmakers to enact real child privacy laws.

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