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'None of us will have any privacy anymore': Senator wants Facebook regulation after meeting with Zuckerberg

  • Sen. Bill Nelson meets with Mark Zuckerberg for more than an hour Monday.
  • He says he has concerns about user privacy and calls for more regulation on Facebook.
  • Zuckerberg is testifying on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday.

After meeting with Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, a key Democratic senator said Americans risk losing their right to privacy without more regulation of social media platforms.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., met with the Facebook CEO for more than an hour on Monday ahead of Zuckerberg's Capitol Hill testimony Tuesday and Wednesday. Nelson, ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, called for more oversight of social media platforms to protect user data.

"Because if we don't do something now none of us will have any privacy anymore," he told reporters after the meeting. Nelson spoke to the media for about a half-hour shortly after Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced he would challenge Nelson for his seat this year.

However, Nelson expressed doubts that government agencies or the Republican-controlled Congress would take action soon to check social media companies like Facebook. "Not during this administration," he said when asked about the possibility of near-term regulation.

It's not clear if he thinks regulation would have a better chance of passing if Democrats win one or both chambers of Congress come November.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg holds a mobile phone while speaking with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2018.
Christopher Day | U.S. Senate | Handout | Reuters
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg holds a mobile phone while speaking with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2018.

Zuckerberg will testify amid backlash over the revelation that consulting firm Cambridge Analytica may have misused the personal information of up to 87 million people. Nelson said he found Zuckerberg "forthright and honest to the degree that he could" be during their meeting.

The Facebook CEO also aims to assure lawmakers that the company is doing enough to combat the spread of misinformation on its platform. Facebook has acknowledged that about 126 million people may have seen misleading content from a Russian agency around the time of the 2016 election.

Several lawmakers have pushed for tougher regulation of social media companies. In his testimony this week, Zuckerberg plans to say Facebook supports the Honest Ads Act, proposed legislation which aims to better disclose the source of political advertising. He will also highlight Facebook's efforts so far to limit data developers can access and delete fake accounts from the platform.

The Facebook CEO may have to take "a lot more action in the future," Nelson said.

"My sense is that he takes it seriously because he knows that there is going to be a hard look at regulation," the senator said. "If it's not his site, someone else can be misused for people who are trying to do us harm. And I believe he understands that regulation could be right around the corner."

Despite some momentum for passing a bill, Congress is unlikely to do so this year as lawmakers prepare for the upcoming midterm elections. Nelson said the jurisdiction of federal agencies complicates matters: he thinks the Federal Communications Commission, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, should have a role in regulating social media platforms.

Zuckerberg was also expected to meet with Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, respectively.

Zuckerberg testifies before both of those Senate panels Tuesday, followed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

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