Sen. Mark Warner has been asking tech companies to step up to the plate for a long time. Now Congress is asking too.
This follows Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s marathon 10 hours of testimony to Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Commerce Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee over two days this week. He gave details about how Cambridge Analytica, a political data analysis consultancy, was reportedly able to buy Facebook profile data for more than 87 million users, and he offered apologies for what he called Facebook’s breach of trust.
During the hearings, he also addressed everything from concerns about political censorship to questions about upcoming European privacy regulations to conspiracy theories about whether his company’s app is surreptitiously listening through your phone to better serve ads (he reassured the committee it’s not true).
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia wants other tech execs to speak before Congress.
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By the end of the ordeal, widely seen as a showdown that could determine Facebook’s future, Zuckerberg was given a thumbs-up by Wall Street. Investors pushed the company’s stock up nearly 6 percent in seeming relief that the 33-year-old had largely dodged congressional ire.
But Warner, a Virginia Democrat who’s also vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in an interview that this is by far not the end of things. He now wants Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and other tech executives to come to Capitol Hill as well. He’d like them to talk to his committee about national security issues.
That isn’t to say Warner’s itching to deliver a finger-wag to every major name in tech. Instead, he says tech giants need to wise up that the issues raised in these hearings are not going away and that it’s in their best interest to work with Congress rather than resist.
“I’ll be the first to acknowledge that if the tech companies leave it to policy makers in Washington alone to figure this out, we’ll probably screw it up,” he said. He adds that the complexity of the issues facing lawmakers begs for the tech industry’s input.
“This is a problem that’s not going to go away,” he said.
Warner isn’t the only lawmaker making these requests. Figures like Dorsey have already been invited to testify at various hearings, but so far have demurred.
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While Congress has vented plenty of frustration at Zuckerberg over his company’s handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other issues, the hearings were light on policy prescriptions.
There is, though, the Honest Ads Act, which Warner co-sponsored with Arizona Sen. John McCain and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. It says that internet sites and apps would have to disclose who pays for political ads, among other things. Warner calls it “the lowest-hanging fruit,” and indeed Facebook is already implementing similar features.
But Warner’s also interested in other issues, such as finding new ways to confirm the origin of posts. That is, someone posting propaganda from Moscow, for example, wouldn’t be able to post on Facebook claiming to be in San Francisco.
This is a problem that’s not going to go away.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia
Here’s what could be next, Warner said: making companies more responsible for what’s posted on their services. In some ways, this is beginning to happen. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed a bill amending the Communications Decency Act to hold companies accountable if they knowingly allow sex trafficking to