Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) discussed social media censorship and privacy, most notably regarding Facebook, on SiriusXM Patriot’s Breitbart News Saturday.
“One of the things that was noticeable in the hearing was the light preparation Mr. Zuckerberg had for that hearing and the number of times he pivoted and said, ‘My staff will get back to you.’ That is not what members of Congress wanted to hear. They wanted him to come in fully prepared, ready to do the job, ready to answer the questions, ready to participate with us in solving this issue,” declared Blackburn. “Individuals who are in the online space and conducting part of their transaction online do not want to have people using their data in data mining and doing that without their permission. They want to be able to have the tools that are necessary to protect themselves online. And for Mark Zuckerberg to come in their and say he wasn’t aware of legislation, or legislative initiative, or he wasn’t aware of lawsuits they had faced, or he wasn’t aware of consent decree, that really just did not sit well, and that’s the sort of thing that’s almost unbelievable that he would come to Capitol Hill and not be conversant on those issues knowing we want to discuss those with him.”
Blackburn then discussed her own upcoming hearing, where she will be testifying with Diamond and Silk, whose persecution on Facebook she bought up to Zuckerberg during his congressional hearing this month.
“What I’m going to discuss in the hearing is the Browser Act, which is my legislation that would give you the ability to protect as I call it your ‘virtual you,’ you and your presence online. It would give you that toolbox that you need by allowing you to choose to opt-in to share your information, then for non-sensitive information you could opt out if you didn’t want that,” Blackburn explained. “This is good common sense, it is something that gives the consumer the right to control what is being used of their information. Secondly, we will discuss censorship and what has happened in the censorship arena when you look at the way they manipulate… Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Yahoo, the way they manipulate their algorithms so that they are selectively or subjectively prioritizing content or censoring speech. So we’ll discuss those issues, of course I’ve had my little dust-ups with Twitter. There are plenty of conservatives who have also had their dust-ups with Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, so we’ll have a good discussion of those.”
“They do not want to give you privacy protections because what they sell is access to eyeballs. They are really big, really successful advertising and marketing companies, that is what they are, and they use this platform for connectiveness in order to have access to all of that free data. You’re exactly right about that, and they are connected issues,” she continued, adding, “That is why in my questioning with Mark Zuckerberg I talked about the privacy and then I talked about the manipulation of those algorithms, because what they do is to tweak that algorithm and then they can use that to say this content is more popular online and move it forward in search, and this other content is less popular.”
“They can also then direct that content to you, which means they can’t give you privacy protection if they’re going to look in there and always be sifting through your data to find out your needs and wants and thoughts and things that are important to you, so you’re right, they are connected issues, but it is exactly why people need the ability to eliminate these platforms from looking at different components of information about them or to sift through information about their issues,” concluded Blackburn. “I talk to Moms every day who are so concerned about this because their children are in that online space, and their children have Facebook pages, or their children are watching YouTube videos, and they don’t want some snoop following their child around online looking at what their child is searching online, looking at what they’re reading online. It is an invasion of privacy, so this is where those privacy rights and free speech rights meet and align, if you will, and in order to protect one you have to protect the other.”