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Lawmakers Raise Possibility of Regulating Facebook


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Lawmakers Demand Privacy Protection, Raise Possibility of Regulating Facebook
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U.S. lawmakers have demanded that Facebook take more steps to protect the privacy of its users. Some even raised the possibility of regulating social media networks.

The demands came during two days of testimony on Capitol Hill by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He appeared before Senate and House committees on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The 33-year-old founder of the social media service showed up wearing a dark suit and tie, instead of his usual T-shirt. He faced questions mostly about the company’s privacy policies.

Lawmakers called Zuckerberg to testify after he admitted the company made mistakes that led to private data of users being shared with a British research company.

Facebook has said the company, Cambridge Analytica, wrongly received the private data of up to 87 million users. Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that his own private data was also taken by the company.

The information was collected through an app that users used Facebook to sign into. Cambridge Analytica is a political research company. It provided information to the campaign of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Zuckerberg recently issued a public apology for the incident, which Facebook says it learned about in 2015. He repeatedly apologized again during his Congressional testimony.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, told Zuckerberg on Tuesday he saw the Cambridge Analytica situation as “clearly a breach of consumer trust.”

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., left, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, shake hands Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (AP
Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., left, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, shake hands Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (AP

Zuckerberg took full responsibility for the incident.

“It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and at the end of the day I'm responsible for what happens here.”

Facebook began informing users this week as to whether their private data may have been wrongly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Zuckerberg says the company has already cut off the ability of apps on Facebook to collect such data. The company is still investigating the Cambridge Analytica incident. Zuckerberg said Facebook is also looking into whether additional apps might have wrongly shared user data in the past.

Regulating social media

Some U.S. lawmakers have raised the possibility of regulating Facebook and other social media companies. They argue the companies have become too big and powerful to police themselves.

The companies have been criticized for secretly selling user data to make money. They have also been blamed for not taking enough action to prevent the spread of false news. Facebook has also been accused of not identifying foreign sources of political advertising during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Members of the audience hold up signs and wear sunglasses that read "Stop Spying" before CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of two Senate committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 10, 2018.
Members of the audience hold up signs and wear sunglasses that read "Stop Spying" before CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of two Senate committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 10, 2018.

On Wednesday, Zuckerberg told the House Energy and Commerce Committee he is not opposed to some kind of regulation.

“The internet is growing in importance around the world in people's lives, and I think that it is inevitable that there will need to be some regulation.”

However, Zuckerberg added that lawmakers would have to be “careful” about how to put possible regulations in place. He told Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Tuesday he would be willing to work with lawmakers to examine which regulations might be necessary.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and VOA News. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

regulate v. to make rules or laws that control something

app n. computer program that performs a special function​

breach n. an action that breaks a law, rule or agreement

consumer n. person who buys goods and services

source n. where something comes from

inevitable adj. something that cannot be prevented

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