Facebook whistleblower’s testimony strengthens calls for limits in Europe

By Adam Satariano

BERLIN – The congressional testimony from the Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, has intensified calls in Europe for new laws and regulations aimed at the social media company and other Silicon Valley giants, proposals considered by many to be among the most stringent and far-reaching in the world.

Alexandra Geese, a lawmaker in the European Parliament from Germany, said Haugen’s testimony, along with the global outage that took down Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp for billions of people this week, showed tougher regulation was needed.

“Any trust there could be in the company has been destroyed,” Geese said. “We now know we need to regulate because the company will not stop breaking things. And breaking things means breaking people and democracies.”

In her testimony Tuesday (5), Haugen provided details about Facebook’s inner workings and negative effects on society, and she outlined several ideas that matched what European Union officials have debated the past year.

One of the proposals, the Digital Services Act, could be adopted as early as next year. It includes transparency requirements that Haugen called for during her testimony, requiring Facebook and other large tech platforms to disclose details to regulators and outside researchers about their services, algorithms and content moderation practices. The draft law also could force Facebook and other tech giants to conduct annual risk assessments in areas such as the spread of misinformation and hateful content.

Another EU proposal, called the Digital Markets Act, puts new competition regulation in place for the biggest tech platforms, including restricting their ability to use their dominance with one product to gain an edge on rivals in another product category.

In Washington, Haugen’s testimony resulted in bipartisan calls for tougher laws, but a timeline for passing any new policies remains unclear. There are some signs that Europe and the United States are converging on ideas for regulating the biggest tech platforms.

Last week, after a digital policy meeting of the European Union and Biden administration officials, the two sides put out a joint statement on “common issues of concern,” including the need for more transparency about how algorithms work and amplify certain content over others.

-New York Times

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