Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee vehemently criticized Facebook for the negative effects its platforms have on users, arguing the tech giant is acting like a monopoly.
“This looks like the behavior of a monopolist that’s so sure its customers have nowhere to go that it displays a reckless disregard for its consumers,” Lee told Steve Satterfield, Facebook’s vice president of privacy and public policy, during a Tuesday Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on data privacy and competition.
Lee referenced an investigation published last week by The Wall Street Journal which found Facebook had conducted research on, and had knowledge of, the negative effects its image-sharing platform Instagram had on the mental health of teen users. The senator said the investigation revealed “shocking, stunning lapses in Facebook’s ability to protect its users,” arguing Facebook believed it could act negligently towards consumers due to its size and unilateral control over user data.
“Doesn’t it look to you like Facebook is behaving like a monopolist?” Lee asked Satterfield. “What could be a better example of monopoly power?”
Lee’s concerns were echoed by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who called Facebook’s behavior “heinously destructive” and accused the tech company of attempting to conceal the harm it knows it causes.
“Facebook has been blatantly deceptive and disingenuous about this issue,” Blumenthal told Satterfield.
Blumenthal, along with Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, announced an investigation into Facebook’s knowledge of the harmful impact Instagram had on teen users last week.
When asked by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley if teenagers were safe when using Instagram, Satterfield failed to answer, and would not say when the tech giant would release its research on Instagram’s harmful effects.
“The truth is, you and I both know your product isn’t safe,” Hawley told Satterfield. “It’s time for some accountability, and all I can say is accountability is coming.”
The hearing touched on other issues, such as how big tech companies’ control of private data creates barriers to entry for smaller competitors and raises monopoly concerns. Also present at the hearing was Google’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy Markham Erickson.
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