- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 10, 2021

Facebook Vice President Nick Clegg said Sunday that his company is counting on Congress to take action that will change how his social networking platform does its business. 

In the aftermath of a Senate hearing featuring criticism from former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen, Mr. Clegg, former deputy prime minister of the U.K. and leader of the Liberal Democrats, told ABC’s “This Week” that there are some things only the government can do. 

“I think if there’s any silver lining to this week, it’s that maybe now we can move beyond the slogans, the sound bites, the simplistic caricatures, and actually look at solutions and yes, and of course, regulation,” Mr. Clegg said. “There are certain things that only lawmakers can do: Only lawmakers can amend Section 230, only lawmakers can introduce federal privacy legislation, only lawmakers can introduce laws to protect our elections and so on. And that’s not a substitute for the responsibility that Facebook has got.”

At last week’s hearing, Ms. Haugen and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, compared the social media company to Big Tobacco companies with regard to their alleged knowledge of their products’ harm to children. 

The Facebook executive called such a comparison an “extremely misleading analogy.” 

“Well, we will, of course, seek to make ourselves ever more transparent so people can hold us to account,” Mr. Clegg said on ABC. “We understand that with success comes responsibility, comes criticism, comes scrutiny, comes responsibility, and that’s why we’re the first Silicon Valley company to set up an independent oversight board that independently adjudicates on these difficult content decisions.”

Facebook’s Democratic critics in Congress are tired of tech platforms’ talk of policing their users. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota told CNN she appreciated hearing that Mr. Clegg is willing to talk about policy changes, but said “the time for conversation is done, the time for action is now.

“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,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “The guy down the street tells me his mother-in-law won’t get a vaccine because she read on social media that it would implant a microchip in her arm. We know that the majority of the people that aren’t getting vaccines read stuff on these platforms.” 

Ms. Klobuchar said she thought Congress needed to enact privacy legislation and update “competition policy” referring to antitrust laws affecting tech companies.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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