- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Democratic presidential hopefuls are eyeing regulation of Facebook, as calls to break up the tech giant gain momentum on both sides of the partisan divide.

Sen. Kamala D. Harris, California Democrat and a presidential-primary contender, told CNN that lawmakers “have to seriously take a look” at breaking up Facebook, and slammed the social media icon for prioritizing its own growth over the privacy and security of its users.

“There are very few people that can get by and be involved their community, society, in their profession without somehow, somewhere using Facebook,” she said. “It is essentially a utility that has gone unregulated. And as far as I’m concerned that’s got to stop.”

Her comments came just a few days after Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, said the company had a dangerous monopoly in global communications.

“We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American,” Mr. Hughes wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, another Democratic 2020 candidate, has made breaking up tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google part of her platform, and she celebrated Mr. Hughes’ op-ed.

“Chris Hughes is right. Today’s big tech companies have too much power — over our economy, our society, & our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private info for profit, hurt small businesses & stifled innovation,” she tweeted.

However, Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, who’s also running for the Democratic presidential nomination, took a more cautious approach, arguing that more needs to be done to rein in the power of corporate consolidation in several fields, including technology, but a president should follow a process.

“I don’t care if it’s Facebook, the pharma industry, even the agricultural industry. We’ve had a problem in America with corporate consolidation that is having really ill effects,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “In the realm of technology, we’re seeing a small one or two companies controlling a significant amount of the online advertising.”

But he stayed far away from advocating for breaking up the tech giant — saying, as president, he’d start with an investigation and took a shot at President Trump, who has frequently railed against the Silicon Valley tech giants for perceived liberalism.

“It’s not me and my own personal opinion about going after folks. That sounds more like a Donald Trump thing to say: I’m going to break up you guys, I’m gonna break — no,” he said.

When the ABC interviewer pointed out that Ms. Warren had called for breaking up Facebook and ask him whether he was comparing her to Mr. Trump, he parried the question.

“I most certainly did not, she is my friend,” Mr. Booker said. “Let her discuss and debate her positions. I’m telling you right now, we do not need a president that is going to use their own personal beliefs and tell you which companies we should break up. We need a president that’s going to enforce antitrust laws in this country, and I will be that person.”

Momentum against Facebook is also building on Capitol Hill, part of a left-right coalition uniting over their (very different) criticisms of the Silicon Valley behemoths.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, and Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, sent a letter last week to the Federal Trade Commission complaining that the expected fine of $3 billion to $5 billion for privacy violations in the Cambridge Analytica case is too small for a company that size.

The senators argued that only a bigger fine — the FTC hasn’t formally announced a penalty — would send a real message and hinted that individual executives such as Mark Zuckerberg should be held accountable personally. The pair also requested specific rules restricting data collection and cross-platform data sharing.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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