Senators met today for a bipartisan session of beating up Big Tech firms for a multitude of controversies — especially the mistreatment of teens. Republicans and Democrats agreed in a rare show of bipartisanship that social media has hidden its harmful side effects much like Big Tobacco.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) scorched Facebook and Instagram’s leadership for knowing the harm caused onto their teenage users, denying such harms in public, and continuing to use the same business model unabated:
“All of us know that these products are addictive and that companies like Facebook designed them in this way in order to maximize addiction to capture eyeballs, which captures data, which is then used to sell advertising. But for years Facebook has been publicly insisting that its products aren’t harmful and in particular they are not harming teenagers. We now know that was a lie.”
The Senate subcommittee hosted was titled : “Big Data, Big Questions: Implications for Competition and Consumers” and boosted by a Wall Street Journal series slamming Facebook. The articles ignited a firestorm of controversy for Facebook and Big Tech in general by releasing damning reports, one of which claimed: “Facebook Inc. knows, in acute detail, that its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm.”
One grim conclusion by The Journal was that Instagram, owned by Facebook, is “toxic” to teenage girls. Senators from both sides of the aisle torched Facebook for hiding the fact that social media, particularly Instagram, was aware of a crisis among young women using its platform.
Cruz listed a litany of studies from Facebook’s own internal research “one presentation said that among teens that reported suicidal thoughts, 13 percent of British users and 6 percent of American users traced their desire to kill themselves to Instagram.”
He raked Facebook/Instagram leadership over the coals for knowing the findings of these studies and going full speed ahead:
“This should have made Facebook stop dead in its tracks and ask what the hell you were doing, instead Facebook publicly downplayed the risk to young users and committed to push to make sure more at risk teenage girls used Instagram, because more users including more teenagers means more money, whatever the human cost. This is appalling. The American people deserve a thorough investigation into Facebook’s willingness and eagerness to mislead the public about the risks of their own products.”
“The comparison to Big Tobacco made by Senator Lee is entirely apt, and I know something about Big Tobacco because I sued Big Tobacco, and I remember the revelation of the documents that showed Big Tobacco not only knew, but had done experiments proving that cigarettes cause cancer. They had denied it for years. They had the knowledge about the damage done to people who smoke.”
The Journal likely prodded senators to action by addressing how little has changed since Congress began questioning Big Tech platforms in high profile hearings.
“Time and again, the documents show, Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects,” The Journal continued. “Time and again, despite congressional hearings, its own pledges and numerous media exposés, the company didn’t fix them. The documents offer perhaps the clearest picture thus far of how broadly Facebook’s problems are known inside the company, up to the chief executive himself.”
Conservatives are under attack. Contact Facebook headquarters at 1-650-308-7300 and demand that Big Tech be held to account to provide clarity on “hate speech,” rules that seem to be applied inconsistently. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.