If the Facebook policies and practices described by Iowa City native Frances Haugen are true, the social media company’s actions are “immoral and unethical,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Wednesday.
“It's pretty discouraging to see that people would take action for profit that harms young people and teenagers,” the Iowa Republican said during a call with Iowa news reporters.
Grassley is not a member of the Senate Commerce Committee panel that heard from Haugen, a former Facebook program manager, who, in media accounts and in her testimony Tuesday, accused the company of knowingly pushing products that harm children and young adults in pursuit of profits.
Haugen, an Iowa City West High School graduate who worked as a data scientist at Facebook, also told senators Facebook spreads misinformation, but refuses to make changes that would harm profits.
Based on the “snippets” he’s heard from media reports, Grassley said, Haugen’s testimony gives credibility to his statements in recent years that Facebook and other so-called Big Tech companies are monopolies.
“They are — well, in this case, Facebook, but I use a sweeping statement to cover a lot of platforms — monopolies,” he said. “They're protected from lawsuits, so they figure they got a license to do anything they want to.”
The protections Congress has provided tech companies, including Section 230, which some members want to reform or rescind, “were given when all these platforms were just young, budding businesses and Google and Facebook and Twitter, Instagram, those weren't even in our vocabulary,” Grassley said.
“We’ve got to take another look at that section of it, but this is just simply immoral and unethical that they will set up an environment that hurts kids,” he added.
Previous efforts to pass new regulations on social media have failed. However, senators indicated the new revelations about Facebook show it’s time to take action.