How Lawmakers Want to Rein in Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Energy and Commerce hearing April 11 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Energy and Commerce hearing April 11 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Mark Zuckerberg's marathon testimony foreshadowed that regulations are coming.

If lawmakers learned one thing from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s marathon testimony on Capitol Hill this week, it’s that reining in the social media giant and tech industry as a whole may prove more difficult than they thought.

Zuckerberg fielded questions from two congressional panels on a slew of topics including how Cambridge Analytica walked away with data on 87 million Americans, whether his company is a monopoly, and how Facebook balances free speech with zero tolerance policies.

Though his testimony felt a bit rehearsed and at times sounded like a teenager explaining technology to his grandparents, it raised a number of critical questions about the role of tech in society, the seeming lack of control Americans have over their online lives and the nature of online politicking.

Since the revelation that Russia used social media to meddle in the 2016 election, lawmakers have introduced a handful of bills that would put limits on online politicking and sweeping data collection, and many called on Zuckerberg to weigh in on the legislation.

While he refused to commit definitively on any one bill, he told the Senate on Tuesday, “I think the real question, as the internet becomes more important in people's lives, is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be or not.”

Here’s a look at some of the ways lawmakers propose keeping Facebook’s power at bay:

Honest Ads Act

The Honest Ads Act, introduced by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va. and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., would require social media and other web platforms to disclose who paid for political advertisements on their site. By expanding the definition of “electioneering communication” to include paid political ads online, the legislation would subject internet campaigns to the same regulations that govern political ads on TV, radio and print publications.

At first, Facebook and other tech titans poured significant resources into fighting online ad regulation, but Zuckerberg threw his support behind the bill last Friday and Twitter followed suit shortly after.

Twenty lawmakers have signed onto the legislation since October, but a lack of bipartisan support has stalled the bill in the upper chamber. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., remains the only Republican who’s signed on.

“This is an important area for the whole industry to move on,” Zuckerberg said.

CONSENT Act

Under the Customer Online Notification for Stopping Edge-provider Network Transgressions Act, or CONSENT Act, consumers would have to give social media platforms and other online services the green light before they can use, share or sell any personal data.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., who introduced the bill Tuesday as Zuckerberg testified before the Senate, dubbed it a “privacy bill of rights … built on a simple philosophy that will return autonomy to consumers.”

On top of mandating explicit opt-in policies, the legislation would require “edge-providers” like Facebook and Google to notify users any time their data was collected, shared or used, and also strengthen requirements for cybersecurity and reporting data breaches. In theory, the measure would outlaw the covert data collection techniques used by Cambridge Analytica.

“In general, I think that principle is exactly right and we should have a discussion. I think the details matter a lot,” Zuckerberg said.

BROWSER Act

The Balancing the Rights of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibly Act, or BROWSER Act, would boost the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to enforce privacy protections and mandates users opt in to certain types of data collection.

A somewhat watered-down version of the CONSENT Act, the legislation requires broadband providers, websites and mobile apps that offer certain types of services to get consumers’ explicit consent to access, disclose or use information on:

  • finances,
  • health,
  • children ages 13 and under,
  • Social Security numbers,
  • precise geolocation,
  • browsing history,
  • online messages and other communication, and
  • app usage.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who introduced the bill, grilled Zuckerberg on user privacy and data ownership, and whether he would commit to working with Congress to pass the legislation.

“I’m not directly familiar with the details of [the bill],” he said.

Secure and Protect Americans’ Data Act

The legislation would set minimum information security standards for companies holding consumer data and require them to alert affected consumers within 30 days of any data breach. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., reintroduced the bill in the wake of the Equifax data breach that exposed sensitive information on more than 143 million Americans last year.

Listing off the numerous apologies Zuckerberg made for Facebook’s conduct over the last decade, Schakowsky pressed him on how long it would take to finish investigating how Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data and who they might have shared that information with.

“We expect [the audit] to take many months. I hope not [years],” Zuckerberg said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.