Thune on Facebook: ‘This is a business which creates addictions’

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KELO) — A former Facebook employee was on Capitol Hill Tuesday saying the social media giant puts profits over safety and puts kids at risk. 

Frances Haugen testified in front of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) serves on. Haugen said Facebook and Instagram use algorithms to target teens, exposing them to dangerous content that could make them develop eating disorders.

“The choices being made inside of Facebook are disastrous for our children, for our public safety,” Haugen said during her testimony. 

Thune wants lawmakers to pass an act — Filter Bubble Transparency Act — requiring social media sites to allow users to choose whether their accounts use algorithms

“I think that to me represents freedom of choice for consumers. I think it gives people options and I also think it helps keep the big tech companies more accountable,” Thune said. 

Thune agreed with Haugen that Facebook’s “engagement-based ranking” is harmful and his Filter Bubble Transparency Act would allow people to choose if they wanted to use Facebook’s algorithm or not. 

Haugen argued Facebook would say users wouldn’t enjoy Facebook as much if they didn’t choose the content to show them. Thune also agreed Facebook would complain about any changes “because of business models all predicated on keeping people on the website longer so they can monetize that.” 

“I think it was just a reminder that this is a business which creates addictions,” Thune said. “Particularly for young people, an addiction that is in many ways very harmful.”

Thune says the problems with Facebook’s secret algorithms to manipulate content have been known for a long time and it’s time to find ways to hold the tech giant accountable.

“I think part of the challenge is people don’t know what to do because you got Constitutional issues, First Amendment, right of free speech issues and what is the right way to attack this and really get the result we’re trying to get,” Thune said. “The members of Congress have been grappling with that, struggling with that. I think it’s time to stop grappling. It’s time to start acting.” 

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