Facebook Congressional Hearing

US House of Representatives

Jordan Windham, Social Media Editor

By now, everyone has heard of the Facebook data scandal. Today is the second day Congressional committees get to hear about it from Facebook’s CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg will continue his testimony in front of members of the House and Senate. Congress members will be questioning him not only on the Cambridge Analytica data breach, but on the tech giant’s plans to prevent further data problems.

It is also expected that Zuckerberg will face questions about the actions that Facebook will take going forward. The data of users is certain to be a central topic.

There may also be some questions about the epidemic of “Fake News” on Facebook, as well as the “Russian bots” rumors and accusations that are rampant.

However, there will be a major topic that has been less publicized.

Government officials are weighing the merit of introducing regulations for Facebook.

In the face of regulations, the saving grace of Facebook has been that it markets itself as a neutral platform, not a publisher. This means that Facebook is viewed as merely a site to post to and therefore not responsible for the content on its platform.

However, Facebook has increasingly made editorial decisions, removing content and citing that the user has violated Facebook’s  “Community Standards”. It is expected that the committees will question Zuckerberg on accusations and evidence of censorship and “shadow banning” conservatives.

Facebook claims to be a “platform”, which means that it is neutral and does not have any control over who can publish what on the platform. Thus, Facebook is not responsible for the things posted on the platform. This is why Facebook hasn’t been sued into oblivion by users who are angry about the things posted about them on Facebook.

However, Facebook is increasingly making editorial decisions, banning people, removing content and restricting content. This damages Facebook’s argument for a protected “platform” status.

There are two ways that this could end.

Facebook can return to a reign of free-speech, stopping the discrimination and editorializing of social media.

Or, Facebook can continue its quest for control over the platform. This would result in Facebook being re-classified as a “publisher”. Facebook would become liable for all of the content on its platform. It would then have to police every interaction, message, and post to make sure that it is not found “offensive”.

This hearing is highly anticipated, and many eagerly await the outcome of these hearings.