Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) accused “corporate America” of being “allies” with the Republican Party during Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Wednesday, despite the fact that the congressman has received thousands of dollars in donations from Facebook and that the social network donates a significant amount more to Democrats than Republicans.
“For all the good it brings, Facebook can be a weapon for those like Russia and Cambridge Analytica that seek to harm us and hack our democracy,” declared Pallone. “Facebook made it too easy for a single person, in this instance Alexander Kogan, to get extensive personal information about 87 million people. He sold his data to Cambridge Analytica, who used it to to try and sway the 2016 presidential election for the Trump campaign, and Facebook made itself a powerful tool for things like voter suppression, in part by opening its platform to developers with little or no oversight.”
“But it gets worse. The fact is no one knows how many people have access to the Cambridge Analytica data, and no one knows how many other Cambridge Analyticas are still out there. Shutting down access to data to third parties isn’t enough in my opinion. Facebook and many other companies are doing the same thing,” he continued. “They’re using people’s personal information to do highly targeted product and political advertising, and Facebook is just the latest in a never-ending string of companies that vacuum up our data but fail to keep it safe, and this incident demonstrated yet again that our laws are not working.”
Pallone then blamed Republicans, adding, “Making matters worse, Republicans here in Congress continue to block or even repeal the few privacy protections we have. In this era of nonstop data breaches, last year Republicans eliminated existing privacy and data security protections at the FCC, and their justification that those protections were not needed because the Federal Trade Commission has everything under control. Well this latest disaster shows just how wrong the Republicans are. The FTC used every tool Republicans have been willing to give it, and those weren’t enough, and that’s why Facebook acted like so many other companies and reacted only when it got bad press.”
“We all know the cycle by now. Our data is stolen, the company looks the other way, eventually reporters find out, publish a negative story, and the company apologizes, and Congress then holds a hearing, and then nothing happens. By not doing this job, this Republican-controlled Congress does become complicit in this nonstop cycle of privacy by press release, and the cycle must stop because the current system is broken,” Pallone proclaimed. “So I was happy to hear that Mr. Zuckerberg conceded that his industry needs to be regulated and I agree. We need comprehensive privacy and data security legislation. We need baseline protections that stretch from Internet service providers to data brokers to app developers and anyone else who makes a living off our data. We need to figure out how to make sure these companies act responsibly even before the press finds out, but while securing our privacy is necessary, it’s not sufficient.”
“We need to take steps immediately to secure our democracy. We can’t let what happened in 2016 happen again, and to do that we need to learn how Facebook was caught so flat-footed in 2016,” he expressed. “How was it so blind to what the Russians and others were doing on its systems? Red flags were everywhere. Why didn’t anyone see them? Were they ignored? I know I sound very critical of the Republicans and their leadership on these policy issues but I’ve just seen it over and over again that we have the hearings and nothing happens, so excuse me for being so pessimistic.”
After Zuckerberg replied to Pallone’s concerns, the congressman responded, “Mr. Zuckerberg, you talk about how positive and optimistic you are, and I guess I’m sorry because I’m not, I don’t have much faith in corporate America and I certainly don’t have much faith in their GOP allies here in Congress.”
Despite the fact that Pallone attacked corporate America’s “GOP allies” in Congress, the congressman himself received $6,000 in donations from Facebook between 2014 and 2018, while congressional Democrats receive more donations from the company than Republicans by a large amount.
In 2016, Democrats received over $3,100,000 in donations from Facebook– 50 percent more than Republicans, who received $1.5 million.
Democrats also received more than double the amount of donations that Republicans received in 2018, while in 2014 and 2012 they also received hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the opposition.