The foundation of American democracy is that the people can decide who their representatives are and have a voice in the process. Big tech companies hold too much power over consumers' personal information and continuously deny privacy for consumers.
It is time for Congress to pass legislation holding them accountable and repealing section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law provides immunity for private technology companies for the content published by users. Repealing the law would increase penalties for companies that continue to abuse the trust of the public.
In addition, by increasing safeguards for young people on social media to protect mental health and developing more efficient processes in addressing cyberbullying. The actions of Facebook are unacceptable and are another example of the unethical practices of the company.
On Oct. 5, Frances Haugen, a former data scientist for Facebook, testified to Congress about the company's unethical practices. The information she revealed during her testimony has sparked bipartisan backlash because of the corrupt practices of big tech.
Frances Haugen's testimony is profoundly alarming because of the large number of powerful technology companies and their lack of respect for consumer privacy rights. She mentioned how Facebook continues to mislead the public with ads claiming that the company is committed to fighting the increase in young teens using the platform. As a result of the increasingly aggressive practices of big tech, legislative action is needed to fix this situation.
Social media is highly damaging to the emotional and cognitive development of teenagers. There has to be a minimum age to use these social media platforms to prevent irreparable harm to teens' health. The idea of Instagram is highly damaging, where people can display their "perfect lives" and hide the truth.
The National Public Radio (NPR) reported that during Haugen’s testimony, she mentioned how Facebook "Intentionally hides vital information from the public, from the U.S. government, and governments around the world."
NPR reported that she has called on members of Congress to pass legislation to address the increasing problems associated with big tech companies. After her testimony, Facebook released a statement contradicting her testimony and was seen as an attempt to discredit her.
Mark Zuckerberg, in a statement, wrote, "At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being. That's just not true. I don't know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed. The moral, business, and product incentives all point in the opposite direction."
In recent years, problems have been highlighted due to the unchecked power of big technology companies, including violations of antitrust legislation, mental health consequences for young people and increasing political polarization.
In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Facebook for aggressive monopolistic practices against smaller companies by purchasing them to eliminate potential competition. The company is the largest social media company globally, and most social media users have a Facebook account.
The leaked documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal show that Facebook knew Instagram was highly toxic to teenagers and failed to address the problem. The Wall Street Journal reported that "One in five teenagers say that Instagram makes them feel worse about themselves."
Cyberbullying continues to remain rampant on social media. In 2018, the Pew Research Center found that 1 in 6 teenagers experienced abusive behavior online. 42% of respondents reported being called names, 32% experienced people spreading false rumors, and 25% of teens received explicit images.
The monopolies hurt the economy, and consumers have a limited selection of products. In addition, it hurts small businesses development and prevents further technological innovation in a given area.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.